Columbia Class of 2017 Post Their Application Essays, Say The Darndest Things

For many people, the college essay is the hardest part of their application, as they seek to define themselves in 500 words or less for a faceless committee of admissions officers. The Columbia Class of 2017, though, has given us an inside look at what exactly it takes to be part of the 6.89 percent to win entry to the school this year. A tipster recently directed us to a Google Drive folder in which newly admitted Columbians are posting their application essays for their peers to see. And, thankfully, they left it public.

Topics range from the deeply personal, to the seemingly mundane, to the blatantly ridiculous. We’ve included a list of some of the more notable entries below; feel free to categorize them yourself:

  • The sub-prime mortgage crisis, told as a tortoise and hare allegory (“There are regulators at every mile to ensure the hare plays by the rules established by the Security Enforcement Commission.”)
  • Sketching a nude model for the first time (“As the model stepped out of her robe, I felt unsettled and self-conscious. I was scared. Where was I supposed to look? Was I ready for this?”)
  • Arrested Development getting renewed (“So ‘Arrested Development’ is the epitome of all things—good, bad, or ironic—coming to inevitable conclusions.”)
  • Imagining literary lunch dates with fictional characters (“Generally, my peers don’t understand my compulsion to inhabit the worlds I read, or my overactive imagination’s ability to project those worlds into its own reality.”)

However, some of the essays deserve a closer examination. Here are our personal favorites:

The IvyGate award for “Most Original Essay (For Better Or Worse)” goes to a mock script of a conversation between the applicant, musical theater heavyweight Oscar Hammerstein II (Columbia Class of 1919), and composer Tom Kitt (Columbia Class of 1996). The alums lead our author on a journey of self-discovery as he finds that, yes, he should pursue his dreams and doggone it, people like him. Here are the opening lines, which subtly set the scene for the author’s insecurity:

Hammerstein: Ok, kid. You’ve seen the school. Now what?
Noah: (HE knew this was coming) I—I really don’t know…Major in Drama and
Psychology or choose something safe…Economics?
Kitt: (Bombastic as always) Oh cut the crap, why don’t ya? You worked your ass off for years to get to this point, and now you finally have; if you get in, you’d have all the resources you could possibly want—
Noah: (Frantically) BUT, I don’t know how to use them. I don’t know how to use them or what to do with them. Musical Theater is my life; I love it more than anything else I’ve ever done. To be up on the stage—the songs—the emotion…but as a career?
Hammerstein: Kid, breathe. Pursue it.
Noah: But that’s easier said than done! It’s just so—so…
Kitt: (Like the Hindenburg, exploding) Christ! SPIT IT OUT!
Noah: …Hard. Read the rest of this entry »

Eating Lunch Is Too Stressful For Dartmouth Students

Perhaps worried about being the Ivy League school that had to increase their acceptance rate this year, some Dartmouth students are trying to make their school a nicer, more inviting place. The Dartmouth reports that a group of students have recently introduced $100 worth of red cups to the college’s eating halls in some bizarre social experiment to actually have students talk to each other. If a student uses a red cup during a meal, it is now known to all that they are lonely and willing to eat with total strangers. According to The Dartmouth, “The project, launched Tuesday, is a reaction to the dining hall’s propensity to give students unnecessary stress.”

In order to alleviate the paralyzing stress of eating a meal, some students have introduced “friendship competitions” to the program. As this cheery anecdote describes it:

“Today at lunch, some of the men’s heavyweight rowing team will sit alone at opposite ends of the Class of 1953 Commons. Each solely armed with his meal and a red cup, the team members will compete to attract the most dining companions. Whoever ends his meal with the most new friends will be declared the winner of the team’s unofficial ‘popularity contest.’”

Despite it’s good intentions, this daring new initiative does not seem to be working. In fact, it’s actually causing more stress for Dartmouth’s seemingly self-conscious student body:

“Nobody said ‘hi’ to me all evening,” Jon Vandermause ’16 said. “I don’t know if I’m ugly or if the cups aren’t working.”

Jon, it’s not you, it’s them. We promise. They just don’t understand the power of the red cups yet.

Cornell Senior Arrested, Charged With First Degree Rape

After an “extensive investigation,” police have arrested Cornell senior Peter Mesko, a member of the school’s wrestling team, The Cornell Daily Sun reports. Mesko was arrested in response to an unnamed female’s complaint that a man entered her room at 5 a.m. on Saturday and raped her. According to The Sun,

 “The woman told police that an unfamiliar individual entered her bedroom and engaged in sexual intercourse with her ‘without her knowledge or consent, as she was soundly sleeping at the time.’”

In New York State, first degree rape is defined as sexual intercourse with another person by forcible compulsion or [with someone] incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless.” First degree rape is a class B felony in New York, and if found guilty, Mesko could face 25 years in prison.

Meet Alex Jaffe, Princeton’s Newest Most Eligible Bachelor

Before yesterday Alex Jaffe was just another nice Jewish boy from the Upper East Side trying to find his soul mate in the rough and tumble dating world that is Princeton University. But now Alex is (probably) the hottest commodity on campus, thanks to his mother Susan, who sent in a letter to The Daily Princetonian urging female undergrads to go out and find themselves a man (specifically her son). Here she is, describing him for all the single females out there:

“My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless.”

Well, if it wasn’t before, it sure is now.

You can read about the curious content of the letter elsewhere, but now please turn your attention to the new poster boy of the Princeton singles scene.

Here’s what we know about Alex:

  • He’s from New York City
  • He uses his mother’s last name on Facebook
  • He went to the elite Stuyvesant High School
  • He scored an 800 on one section of his SATs
  • He plays the French horn
  • He likes theater
  • He wears a lot of orange (a lot)
  • He’s a member of the Princeton Brass Ensemble AND the Princeton Wind Ensemble

Here’s hoping that Alex has the good sense to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and marry an intellectual equal. A word of advice though ladies: This Tiger likes it rough. Just check out his neck.

Barnard Had To Close A Bathroom Because Too Many Girls Smeared Feces On The Floor

Bwog has an email up from the Barnard Associate Director for Residential Life expressing her “great disappointment ” that one Barnard bathroom has been closed by the school due to various cleanliness issues. Apparently the girls of Hewitt Third Floor are guilty of “improper behavior” when it comes to cleaning up after themselves, as the email details the many disgusting issues present in the bathroom.

“Over the past few months, we have seen feces smeared on toilet seats and the floor, urine on the floor, clogged and overflowing toilets, paper towels clogging the sinks, and garbage strewn around the bathroom.”

How unladylike.

The best part of the email though is how the Resident Life director not so subtly accuses the perpetrators of being unbalanced and in need of serious help. They write,

“the responsible individual(s) may need the resources and support of the counseling center based on what we have witnessed in this bathroom.”

This is actually the second case of Ivy League bathroom shenanigans this semester, as back in February Yale had to address the cleanliness of one of its dorm bathrooms (poop on walls, chamber pots, using the sink as a tub).

Check out the full email to the Barnard girls below, courtesy of Bwog: Read the rest of this entry »

Editor’s Note: We Apologize For Publishing The Daily Princetonian’s Letter

This letter is copyright of The Daily Princetonian. We apologize for publishing it without permission.

Harvard Quiz Bowler Denies Cheating, Probably Just Liked Pictures On Questions Website

Who would have thought there would have been a weekend when Harvard’s basketball team was more respected than their Quiz Bowl players? One won four National Academic Quiz Tournaments championships in three years, and the other just went on a “historic run” of a two game NCAA win streak. However, last week the NAQT announced that they were revoking Harvard’s four Quiz Bowl championships from 2009-2011, following the revelation that one of the Crimson players had illegally accessed future Quiz Bowl questions.

According to an interview in The Harvard Crimson with Andrew Watkins — Harvard Class of 2011 and the accused Quiz Bowl cheat — this is all a big misunderstanding. Watkins admits that yes, he accessed a webpage with Quiz Bowl questions, and yes, he did this many, many times. But, as The Crimson reports:

“He declined to elaborate on his motivations for accessing the page, and would not say why he opened it repeatedly before important games.”

But what Watkins did say is potentially more interesting than what he didn’t. According to the former Quiz Bowler, “A website containing question content was loaded. At no point did I read the questions therein.” So, he knowingly and repeatedly loaded a webpage with Quiz Bowl questions, but didn’t actually read anything on it. The NQBT president calls shenanigans on Watkins though, telling The Crimson, “It was clearly marked, and anyone who plays Quiz Bowl would know, “Oh, I’m going to play on those questions, I need to stop looking immediately.’”

In true Harvard fashion, suspicions were first raised about Watkins because he was much better than any other player. Watkins, now a chemistry grad student at NYU, did “astoundingly well against some of the greatest science players of all time, beating them in their specialty categories over and over again,” according to a former rival. However, the NQBT president says they didn’t launch an investigation earlier because while Watkins was good, “he wasn’t so good that he was really standing out from everybody else.” Harvard motivation in a nutshell.

Cornell Cam Girl Is Back (But Not On Campus)

Remember the woman who was filming pornographic videos in Cornell libraries? Well, HyperVocal reported yesterday that she returned to do an unannounced live cam show Wednesday, after several months of apparent inactivity. After the news of her Ivy League exploits broke in October, the woman deactivated her Twitter account and removed the videos from the Internet.

According to HyperVocal, the woman was asked during Wednesday’s show about filming in the Cornell libraries. She apparently refused to address the videos, saying only that “it would never happen again.”

Sorry Cornell, now you really have nothing to get you through that next month of winter.

In Defense of Harvard: Why They Were Right to Search Faculty Emails

This weekend, it came to light that Harvard University secretly accessed the email accounts of their 16 Resident Deans. The Harvard administration confirmed this yesterday morning, releasing a statement detailing their search and the motivation behind it.

Since this revelation, Harvard’s administration has been the target of attacks both internally and externally. Alumni, faculty, and everyone in between have made no secret of the fact that they disagree immensely with the core of Harvard’s actions, and more specifically, how the administration handled the search. Over the weekend, The New York Times quoted Harvard professors who called the search “creepy” and “dishonorable.” Even after the administration released their statement explaining and apologizing for their actions, professors likened Harvard to the Hoover era FBI” and told The Crimson their true concern was the university “trolling emails.” Same thing, different eras, right?

These sentiments are misguided. While the Harvard administration did not fulfill their obligation to inform the Resident Deans of the investigation as it was happening, the university was fully justified in conducting their email search.

First and foremost: Confidential information was sent out twice by a Resident Dean. No matter how innocuous the emails may seem, the central issue at hand is that a Harvard employee directly in charge of students forwarded confidential information (however vague) about Harvard students involved in a disciplinary matter. It’s not that far of a stretch to worry about what other — potentially more sensitive — information this Administrative Board member would leak. And Harvard needs to worry about that, not because of pride or honor or their need to maintain everlasting fear, but rather because FERPA exists. Boring, maybe, but true.

According to their statement, the first step Harvard made was to ask the Resident Deans if one of them had leaked the emails. It was only after no one — including the guilty party — owned up to something the administration knew happened that the email search was initiated. According to the university’s statement, It was made clear at that time that absent clarification of what happened, an investigation would be required. No one came forward.” Resident Deans were asked multiple times if they knew anything about the emails and, shockingly, nothing was confessed. Read the rest of this entry »

Harvard Hacked Its Resident Deans, But Apologized

Over the weekend it was revealed that Harvard University had secretly accessed the email accounts of 16 Resident Deans in connection with a leaked confidential message regarding the university’s recent cheating scandal. Across a number of websites, Harvard faculty members and alumni called the search “creepy,” “dishonorable,” and “one of the lowest points in Harvard’s recent history — maybe Harvard’s history, period.”

This morning, Harvard’s Deans office released a statement about the email search, describing it as limited to a search of the subject line of the email that had been inappropriately forwarded.” The statement also revealed that the covert operation had the approval of Harvard’s Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and General Counsel, and the support of the Dean of Harvard College.

One of the key issues in question here is not only whether Harvard had the right to access the Deans’ emails, but if they also had an obligation to inform them of the search. From Harvard’s statement:

“Some have asked why, at the conclusion of that review, the entire group of Resident Deans was not briefed on the review that was conducted, and the outcome. The question is a fair one. Operating without any clear precedent for the conflicting privacy concerns and knowing that no human had looked at any emails during or after the investigation, we made a decision that protected the privacy of the Resident Dean who had made an inadvertent error and allowed the student cases being handled by this Resident Dean to move forward expeditiously.”

According to a Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences electronic policy document, “The faculty member is entitled to prior written notice that his or her records will be reviewed, unless circumstances make prior notification impossible, in which case the faculty member will be notified at the earliest possible opportunity.” While The Crimson notes that Resident Deans are not technically faculty, they do have some faculty privileges, so this would seem like “clear precedent.” However, the statement does offer an apology to the Deans (real story: Harvard apologizes!), so that’s something.

Also, for what it’s worth, the search worked. Harvard’s statement acknowledges that the university found the person they were looking for by searching the email subject lines and collecting “metadata” — the name of the sender and the time the emails were sent. While it may make for an uncomfortable precedent in the view of some faculty, it was also effective.

Click through for the full (long) statement from the Harvard Dean’s office: Read the rest of this entry »