College essays: a stupid answer to a stupid question

Nov. 16, 2001, midnight | By Eliot Stein | 19 years, 2 months ago

Ah, the college essay! Challenging or absurd? The following actual question on the current University of Pennsylvania application provokes a not-so-actual response:

You have just completed your 300-page autobiography. Please submit page 217.

. . . and that's when I discovered that Bob Saget was my father.

Prompted by my affection for Hugs, the neighborhood Beagle, I became curious about dogs. How do they think? What do they like? But most importantly, what are they saying?

I began by imitating Hugs' bark. While other children played baseball and hopscotch outside, I spent hours in front of my bathroom mirror, tape recorder in hand, matching the pitch and intensity of his call.
Within months I became confident enough to approach Hugs. Hesitantly, I tiptoed to Ms. Hoover's yard and barked softly. Hugs came to my feet, as he had so often before, expecting a rub or a treat. This time, as Hugs approached, I yelped like a rabid dog. This elicited no verbal response from Hugs, merely a tail wag and a puddle of urine at my feet.

Despite Hugs' rejection, I didn't return to practice, for the problem didn't lie within me. I concluded that Hugs had a serious learning disability. I needed more receptive subjects, subjects I hoped to find in the park.

When commuters awoke each morning at 5:00 a.m. to walk their dogs, I waited in the bushes. As haggard owners with curlers still in their hair were dragged by their canines, I ambushed them with incessant barking. These new dogs reacted as expected. They stared blankly for a minute or so, but got friendly when I sniffed myself while down on all fours.

After several months of careful observation, I learned the language of Dog.

As word spread of my breakthrough, or "Fetish," as many called it, I became a celebrity and assumed the alias "Lil Wow-Bow." I accepted a position at the neighborhood kennel in the "Customer Relations" field. Now, I'm not one to toot my own horn, but beep-beep! My duties consisted of keeping watch 20 hours a day while stimulating conversation among the dogs. It wasn't all scratch and fetch, though, let me tell you. Have you ever had to rescue a poodle from a fan?

A year later I returned to Ms. Hoover's backyard. In one year, I had become fluent in Dog, learning all the basic expressions as well as slang. My final wish before college was to talk to my old friend, Hugs. Ms. Hoover met me near his pen. "If you're come to talk to Hugs, I'm sorry. He died because he was just too dumb."

Although distraught, I was not truly surprised, for Hugs was ridiculously stupid. He was still my friend, however. He taught me to persevere and chase my dream, just as he chased trees. And that is why I will be bringing his stuffed body to college next year."

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Eliot Stein. Eliot Stein is an 18 year-old senior at Blair High School and a co-opinions and editorial editor in his second year on the Silver Chips staff. He attended Highland View Elementary School and Takoma Park Middle School and has lived in Silver Spring his whole … More »

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