• October 22, 2009 |

    Spin Doctor Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the College Application Process

    the schrecking ball

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    Photo by David Gallagher

    Photo by David Gallagher

    Spin Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the College Application Process

    Brown’s early admission deadline is November 1st. Let’s take a look at how the class of 2014 is coping.


    A nondescript suburban bedroom. Late night. A young man stares at a Word document. A flash and a bang. Enter Akkeptika.

    Bruno: Akkeptika, the muse of college essays! It’s about time. Inspire me.

    Akkeptika: Yes, it is I! Akkeptika, the Tenth Muse, Pride of Apollo, Bringer of Scholarships and Fat Envelopes, Most Beloved—

    B: I get the idea. I’ve heard of selling yourself, but that’s pushing it.

    A: Precisely. Let’s get to it. I assume you’ll be writing about the summer you spent at that Nepalese orphanage.

    B: That never happened.

    A: Then let’s see what you’ve got so far (reading aloud). “Debate club has given me an appreciation for blah blah blah”

    Anybody can appreciate their debate club; I advise you to write about (Glances left and right. Lowers voice conspiratorially) your heritage.

    B: An exotic mix of Anglo and Saxon?

    A: (disappointed) My mistake. I thought you looked a bit Inuit around the ears. I still feel you should write about the Native American experience.

    B: But I’m not Native American.

    A: Were you born in America?

    B: Well, yes.

    A: There you go! You’re native to America. I think you can legitimately claim Native American status.

    B: That would be a barefaced lie!

    A: Think of it as a barefaced embellishment. When you tell people at parties where you went to school, will you be looking more for respectful acknowledgment or awed silence? Would you like to see your professors interviewed once a week on cable news, or would you prefer a school where the professors only deign to appear on television during major world crises?

    B: I really just want accessible professors.

    A: (chuckling) Oh really? And where does that factor into the US News & World Report rankings? If you have easy access to your professors, then they don’t have easy access to I-banking recruiters, and then you don’t have access to a job.

    B: Actually, I don’t know if the corporate world is for me. I think I want to enter the diplomatic corps, or maybe work for an NGO promoting human rights and economic development.

    A: I understand; you’re going to make your millions with a heartbreaking-yet-hilarious memoir of misadventures overseas.Actually, have you already written a heartbreaking-yet-hilarious memoir, by any chance?

    B: No…

    A: This is hopeless. Have you read a national newsmagazine lately? They don’t let people into college anymore without an angle.

    B: I think you might be giving a bit too much credence to the exaggerated fears of Baby Boomers anxious about their kids’ futures. Despite the impression you may have, students are not expected to attain their greatest achievements before they go to college.

    A: But everybody knows you have to at least master an obscure tribal dialect or have your paper on String Theory published. It’s common knowledge. You can’t just call it in to question; it’s my livelihood.

    B: (with dawning realization) You’re not real!

    A: (nervously) That’s ridiculous.

    B: You’re ridiculous: too ridiculous to be real. You’re a composite of the collective conscience, a product of conventional wisdom, and a caricature at that. You exist only as an ephemeral fragment of the zeitgeist!

    A: (visibly perturbed) There’s no need to resort to name-calling. But good use of SAT words.

    B: (triumphantly) Colleges want a person, not a soundbite. I’ll show you!

    Bruno, ignoring Akkeptika, takes furiously to the keyboard. Akkeptika winks at audience.

    A: (Aside, self-satisfied) Gets ’em every time.