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How A High School Student At The Bottom Of His Class With A 2.1 GPA Wrote A ‘Cliche’ Essay About Bowling And Got Into Yale

Photo: Michael Vi via Shutterstock / engin akyurt and Jeremy McKnight via Unsplash / Bianca Marie Arreola via Canva
bowling pins, yale university sign and college-aged man

There comes a time in every high school student's life to face the major decision about what happens after high school graduation. For many, that means attending college. College-bound students spend years preparing for the application process by maintaining stellar grades, stacking up on the AP and Honors classes, acing standardized tests and having an extensive resume of extracurriculars that show off how well-rounded you are as an individual. 

With this background, it should be a no-brainer that these students should have guaranteed acceptance to some of the greatest universities in the world. But one particular high school student seemed to go against the grain by relying on what is called legacy admissions.

A student was accepted to Yale with a 2.1 GPA and an essay about bowling.

The typical college application process includes submitting an academic transcript, resume and essay, but it can vary according to colleges’ requirements for the applicants. It seems straightforward, but when it comes to college, things aren't always as fair as they should be.

In a viral TikTok clip from user, Limmy, or @limmytalks, a student’s academic background is discussed — and it isn’t what would be expected from someone who applied to nine colleges, half of which were Ivy Leagues. The student had low test scores, ranked 230 out of 239 students and offered an interesting college essay that somehow managed to get him into Yale, but not the other Ivy League schools that he applied to.



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There have been situations where applicants who don't have a favorable academic background stand out because of exceptional essays, but Limmy reads out the Yale student's application essay and it brings up more questions as to how he managed to get in at all. 

Using a clichéd topic on how teamwork taught him how to believe in himself and succeed, the essay focused on how he joined the bowling team in high school despite his bad experiences with sports and always "being picked last in middle school." He detailed how terrible he was when he joined the JV team, but didn't care because he loved the feeling of belonging it gave him.

Here's where it gets weird. After a year on JV and being a less-than-stellar team member, he wrote about how he decided to be a walk-on for the varsity team, despite not training over the summer and even questioning why he joined in the first place — head-scratching details that seem to contradict the intended themes of hard work and success. The student even says that his coach gave up on him but mentions later in the essay that he wouldn’t have made it without his coach and team believing in him. It’s clear that he was trying to achieve something with this essay but it missed the mark.

“But the journey there was even more rewarding. I learned that with hard work and determination anything is possible,” his essay read.

There is a sense of irony in this statement considering it's obvious he relied on his family history of attending Yale as a guarantee to gaining admission to the prestigious institution. Because did we mention that every single member of his family, from his great-grandparents to his brother and sister, all attended Yale?

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Choosing to go to college or university isn't an option for every student.

There used to be a formula for college acceptances: get good grades, always be involved in extracurricular activities, focus on college admission test scores and write an amazing application essay. But as students get more competitive and higher education gets more expensive, the reality of legacy and nepotism in colleges and universities is tainting the process. 

For certain disciplines like being a doctor, it is necessary to get a degree, but even that has its costs. According to Education Data Initiative, "An average medical school graduate owes more than 6 times as much in educational debt as an average college graduate." And it is known that many medical students graduate with six-figure debt that they end up having to spend the rest of their lives paying off.

There are multiple steps in the college admissions process, many of which require money and time that not all students and their families can afford. Those who come from underrepresented backgrounds face barriers like not having enough money to pay for college application fees or tutoring or outside advisors to help navigate the application process. Legacy students typically are from rich families that can afford to pay their way without having to make any sacrifices.

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Colleges are reconsidering legacy admissions.

With the Supreme Court overturning Affirmative Action, which was created to increase opportunities for underrepresented communities, what’s next on the agenda is higher education institutions reconsidering legacy admissions. Why is this happening? Simply, the disparity in socio-economic class. It has been found that “richer applicants are getting a leg up in the college admissions process. Students from affluent backgrounds are twice as likely to get into top colleges than students from more middle-class backgrounds, even if the students have similar GPAs and SAT scores.”

Now, colleges are considering removing legacy admissions in order to diversify campuses with Affirmative Action no longer in use.

There’s a question on most college applications where students can include that they had family that attended the school. This creates a pathway for legacy students to easily gain acceptance over other applicants. The removal of Affirmative Action creates an uncertain future for those from underrepresented backgrounds, but one thing is for sure, legacy admissions need to be eliminated so qualified students have more equal footing.

What really stands out from the TikTok video is that even though the legacy applicant was accepted to Yale, he chose to go somewhere else — not a choice most people in a similar circumstance would make. But maybe, just maybe, this recent grad was smart enough to know that regardless of how he got in, Yale was not a place where he could thrive.

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Amani Semper is an editorial intern for the Entertainment & News team.