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20 Hilariously Awful College Admissions Essays

Were some of these applicants even trying to get accepted? Students and admissions counselors sound off on college essays that range from hysterical to flat out bizarre.

1 / 20
trombone player from a brass orchestra with reflection in the music instrument
Maren Winter/Shutterstock

The non-musician

“When applying to college we were told about a kid that applied to Harvard. Their prompt asked them to propose their own question and answer it. The kid asked himself “Do you play the trombone?” His answer: “No.” Of course, he got in. I’m not sure what the moral of the story was…maybe to think outside the box?”  —sierrarose10 via reddit.com

2 / 20
Chocolate bar in foil on gray background
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Sweet acceptance

“The old application for the Honors College had some required essays, and one year they asked, ‘If you were a candy bar, what would you be and why?’ It’s been over 15 years, and I’ll always remember the essay where the student answered, ‘It would depend on whether or not I would want to be eaten.’ He was admitted.” —Lisa Baker, assistant director, admissions at Indiana University of Pennsylvania via quora.com

3 / 20
Hundred Dollar Bills
P Maxwell Photography/Shutterstock

Honesty pays off

“I applied to Hofstra this year and their only supplemental essay was, ‘Why are you applying to Hofstra?’ I submitted ‘You gave me a fee waiver.’ I was accepted and received a scholarship of $80,000 over four years.” —Aumming via reddit.com

4 / 20
Plate of guacamole with tortilla chips and ingredients

Chipotle is life

“My friend wrote one of his essays about how Chipotle is essential to his life. He was accepted.” —MrLamar3 via reddit.com

5 / 20
Old gilded frame. Antique frame with ornament. Recognize the art.

Essay writing is an art…

“I used my latest AP art history essays for every essay question. Literally, it said things like ‘Why do you want to go here?’ and I attached an essay about the artistic merits of the famous toilet art of Dada movement, another one was about the Baroque period. I ended up getting in AND getting a decent scholarship/aid package…” —anonymous user via reddit.com. Was this a mistake? Maybe not, but these real spelling errors that made it into newspapers will also have you giggling.

6 / 20
martin luther king jr.
Charles Gorry/AP/Shutterstock

Talk about tooting your own horn

“My dormmate applied to UC Berkeley with excellent grades… but also an essay of… ‘What do Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, George Washington….etc, etc, etc have in common?’ Answer: ‘They were all amazing people. So am I. Please accept me to your school.'” —Zigxy via reddit.com

7 / 20
Test score sheet with answers.
Levent Konuk/Shutterstock

When all else fails, call them out

“I know someone who told U of Michigan that the way they evaluate students is faulty and that GPAs/test scores are useless. He got in.” —OrbitBrazil via reddit.com

8 / 20
fountain pen and open dictionary
Image Republic/Shutterstock

Duh? Duh

“One of the essays to get into the university that I attend was, what is your favorite word and why? My friend who now attends this university wrote ‘Duh, duh.'” —euthansaia via reddit.com

9 / 20
The last page of diary, The end of memoirs in the past year

A little humor sometimes goes a long way

“I had a friend in high school who applied early decision to Wharton. They had ‘Write page 264 of your autobiography,’ as an essay question, so he wrote half a sentence along with a note that said ‘Page 264 was the last page of the chapter. I thought about giving you page 263 instead but felt that would be dishonest.’ He got in.” —Fenring via reddit.com

10 / 20
Multicolored paper clips on paperwork
Purple Anvil/Shutterstock

At least he was upfront

“We had one question along the lines of ‘what is the biggest challenge you’ve ever had’ and one kid answered with ‘this application.'” —M1L0 via reddit.comPerhaps this applicant believed this would work. Check out other hilarious things people believed when they were younger.

11 / 20
Young woman cleaning hands with wet wipes
Adam Radosavljevic/Shutterstock

This could’ve gone down the toilet

“I wrote mine about Cottonelle wipes and how they changed my life. The essay started off witty and funny and after the first paragraph, I seriously discussed Cottonelle wipes superiority to toilet paper. I sent it to every school I applied to.” —Flyers37 via reddit.com

12 / 20
Djordje Novakov/Shutterstock

Tomato, no go

“When I was in high school, we had an admissions person visit and she said one student wrote an essay about how people either really like tomatoes or really hate them and how there is no in-between.” —Capri1722 via reddit.com.

13 / 20
Ballpoint pen in a notebook on a brown background. Office.

Short and sweet

“There was this one essay that I heard about where the prompt was ‘In 500 words, tell us what your favorite word is and why’ and the student answered ‘brevity.’ He got in.” —Anonymous user via reddit.com

14 / 20

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

“I wrote an essay about how Spongebob changed my life, and it ended up being many people’s favorite college essay.” —Anonymous user via reddit.com

15 / 20
Shaving tools

A hairy situation

“I wrote my application essay about growing my first facial hair. I definitely got in.” —Grogtron via reddit.comWe can only hope the speech at this applicant’s following commencement was as good as these hilarious lines from celebrity commencement addresses.

16 / 20
Game console isolated on background

Playing video games DOES pay off

“For my college acceptance essays, I wrote about how the video game character Pajama Sam was my personal hero. Accepted to three out of four and waitlisted at the fourth.” — Kelseysaurus via reddit.com

17 / 20
Gliding under stair pullout cabinets for kitchen small appliance storage
Jo Ann Snover/Shutterstock

The girl prepared to pull a Harry Potter

“When I was working in admissions at a university, I dealt strictly with international students. I had a young woman who applied to the university and was looking for a scholarship (about 20 to 25 percent of all international applicants cannot afford the fees and request a full scholarship. Less than 1 percent of those applicants receive it). She wrote how we could take her passport and make her work/live at school until her debt had been paid off. She went into great detail about how she was OK living in a cupboard and she’d only ask to be let free once a month, but would absolutely return. Needless to say, her request was denied.” —Anonymous via reddit.com

18 / 20
Writing an x on a sheet of paper with a red pen
Andrew E Gardner/Shutterstock

Some things are best left unsaid

“Worst case I’ve seen is a kid openly admit in his application essay that he was a habitual cheater throughout high school but it taught him how to become resourceful and think outside the box. I’ve never seen an application get denied faster.” —GrandDaddyBitter via reddit.com

19 / 20
set of short socks white, grey, black on wooden background

Hopefully, her siblings had a little bit more to say

“As I work privately with over 250 college admissions applicants per year, the worst one was by a girl who is a triplet. The entire essay was ‘I’m a triplet’ and said nothing else — zero.” —Amanda Uhry via quora.com

20 / 20

That’s some…creative editing

“I put my college essays online. My main essay was about a trip to Belarus, which was (and still is) under a Soviet-style government. Someone emailed me to thank me, saying he had copied my essay, except he changed it to be about his trip to a regional soccer tournament. I was like…uh, did you at least take out all the stuff about Communism?” — Kay Aull via quora.com

Note: Some posts were edited for clarity, spelling, and grammar.

Erin Kayata
Erin Kayata joined Reader’s Digest as an assistant staff writer in March 2019, coming from the Stamford Advocate where she covered education. Prior to this, she was part of a two-year Hearst fellowship program where she covered crime and education in suburban Connecticut. She graduated from Emerson College and spent part of her undergraduate career writing for the Boston Globe. When she’s not writing articles about useful facts and pop culture, you can find Erin enjoying the local theater scene and working toward her goal of reading 50 books a year.