I was working in the admissions office late one night
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
For my applicant from his file began to rise
And suddenly to my surprise
He did the mash
He did the monster mash*
In our fourth annual edition of Nightmare in the Admissions Office, we had fun highlighting some of the weirdest and wildest applicant horror stories from our readers around the world wide web.
Three years, and hundreds of thousands of applications, have passed since we started this series in 2015 and among those application files, there were bound to be a few new tricks.
In fact, there were at least sixteen.
As always, these posts are meant in jest. We mean no harm to the applicants featured – please comment with your best stories for next year's post!
The 16 Applicants at Your Door This Halloween
“One applicant typed 'We provide many kinds of specimens to the world for 15 years, hope you are interested and could contact with me.' No additional explanation was given. Specimens...what kind of specimens? I was confused and a little disturbed.”
– Anonymous Submission
The Legal Expert
“One applicant who got stuck on the signature part of the application and wasn't sure what to do next emailed us "There are two fields: 'Signature' and 'Date', and I do not know what to insert. Could you please clarify what is required in these 2 fields, and how they are related?" My response was "This is the section where you would type your name and today's date which would constitute your signature...". What I really wanted to type was "don't bother, you're probably not getting in."
– Anonymous Submission
The Secret Agent
“An admitted international student went MIA for 10 weeks leading up to the start of classes and randomly showed up late for orientation after having their application withdrawn due to lack of response. I had to tell him that he had to go home, because he failed to arrive to orientation, which is mandatory for all students. He received dozens of emails telling him his application was in danger of being withdrawn and that it finally was withdrawn, but he never checked his email. He just showed up!”
– Meredith R. - Case Western Reserve University
“The amount of students who glue rice to their applications to Rice University is too damn high.”
“Graduate school admissions. Our application requires 4 separate essays. This student wrote all four as a long, drawn out love letter to one of our faculty members. The faculty member wasn't taking new students into the lab and had never met or talked to the prospective student. The student had taken all the info for her love letters from his website in addition to providing a list of his publications (also from his website) that she had read. I walked away from reading her application with zero sense of who she was but having learned a lot more about the faculty member!”
“We had an applicant send in a book they wrote and published themselves. It was difficult for us to really read it, because for some reason the book really stank. We just put it in their file and shut the door.”
“A student wrote down that they can 'Distinguish bra cup sizes by a simple glance at a woman.'"
“I once had an applicant come through who put that their preferred name was “The Turtle”. On their college application.”
The Cat in the Hat
“An applicant submitted an essay composed of Japanese characters that when put through google translate turned out to be a loosely translated version of cat in the hat.”
“Question: Do you currently hold a US Visa? No, Mastercard.”
“Math Ph.D. applicant's essay literally said "I LIKE MATH" in red crayon. I think he figured his 4.0 GPA and awesome GRE quant score was all he needed. He didn't get in.”
“International applicant sent in a photo of them conducting a military band in a chicken suit. I have no clue why. It went up on the Wall of WTF in our office.”
The... "Actually, Let's Leave This One Untitled"
“It's been almost a decade since I worked in admissions but I still remember the student who used the email address hotnwildorgasm@? on both their admissions and scholarship applications.”
“A student wrote a personal statement about the time they analyzed their own feces for science. It started with, "Once, in the name of science, I studied a culture of my own feces." I was hooked. I don't remember the rest of the essay, but I do remember that it was genuinely very well-written, interesting, and a good response to the question. I gave them a very high application score.”
The Bed Bug
“A bed bug was the most startling part of an admissions application I received. I now know that will quarantine an entire building and that there are bed bug sniffing dogs.”
The Tuna Fish Sandwich
“A good one from this past year was this kid who wrote his essay about becoming a tuna fish sandwich. It started with him waking up in bed to discover he was a tuna fish sandwich, thus making him unable to move. He talked about how his mom walked into the room, freaked out because she couldn't find him, and instead found a tuna fish sandwich and proceeded to eat it. In detail he described the sensation of being chewed up and digested by his mother. I kept waiting for some profound revelation at the end, or a moral of the story, but nope. That was it. Such a bizarre essay.”