November 15, 2013

How I thought I got into UC Berkeley but later found I was wrong

More than a quarter century ago, when call waiting was still cutting edge technology, I was a senior in high school on the east coast, and I wanted to go to college far away. I visited my high school guidance counselor and told her I was thinking of computer science.

"Great field," she said. "What colleges are you thinking of?"

"Stanford or UC Berkeley," I said.

"Ha ha ha HA HA HA HAHAHA >snort<," she said.

At this point in the story, you expect me to say I took that as a challenge. That I dedicated myself to proving her wrong. But I'm not a liar, so I won't say that. I basically just went back to whatever I was doing. (But I also picked a sure thing as my break-glass-in-case-of-emergency school. On the off chance she actually was good at her job.)

I applied early admissions to UC Berkeley. I boasted pretty good credentials--over a 4.0 at a good high school, some respectable if not astonishing SAT scores, participation several clubs, varsity letter in four events on the track team. And Berkeley let me in.

For years and years, because of that meeting with my guidance counselor, I thought what really got me into Cal was the essay I submitted with my application.

That is, until I stumbled across it in a box of old papers the other day. And I read it. Now, I can't really tell you what got me in. Luck, probably. Clerical error, maybe. Or maybe they thought I'd make all the other students look good by comparison.

Whatever it was, I don't think it was the essay itself, unless they were impressed by my 24-pin dot matrix printout. They probably saw that and said, "This kid knows computers."

But you be the judge. I give you, at the risk of losing the last tiny bit of respect you might have had for me, the full text. (Typos have likely been introduced during transcription.)

Peter J. Dudley

Everyone says that high school is “the best four years of your life”. I’ve found this to be true. At least, so far it is.
It is interesting that I should be writing this essay now, for I just saw a production of the play “Is There Life After High School?” It dealt with the problems of high school graduates and their memories of their school years.
I like to think of what I may be doing twenty years from now. I like to think that I will be successful and still handsome. I also like to think that I will still like the same things I like today.
One of the things I will always enjoy is traveling. I am among the fortunate few that travel all over the world when they are young. I not only have been around my state, but I have been to North Carolina and all over the southwestern United States. Two of my friends and I are planning to ride our bycicles across the country to California.
Not only have I explored the U.S., but I have also made one short excursion to Mexico, where I used my eight years of Spanish to speak with the other bilingual tourists. I have also been to southeastern Canada. I have also gone to England on a tour with a group of other students during April of 1983. A few years ago, I went with my family to Austria to visit my sister, who was studying at the University in Salzburg. While we were there, I was fortunate enough to ski on two European mountains.
Skiing is one of my favorite pasttimes. Although it may get expensive at times, I still like it more than any other sport. I like the thrill of speeding down a thin trail with the peril of trees all around me. This also gives me a chance to be alone with just a beautiful view and infinite space for my mind to expand.
I also like to hike into the mountains of New Hampshire. I have done this with my brother and my father. Each time we camped overnight under the stars. It is really beautiful country. Besides skiing and hiking, I enjoy other sports.
I have been on the track team for four years. I don’t run much, however—I pole vault. I also like to do the triple jump. I prefer the
technique sports, because they offer me a greater challenge. I like to be challenged. Competition is very important in my life.
I like to compete for things. Competition helps me to try harder at nearly everything. However, some people carry competitiveness to an extreme. All they want to do is win, win, win.
This is not a good attitude. In most things, I compete for fun. If competition gets hostile or causes arguments, I usually will be the first to give in a little. However, in some things which I deem important, I will not slack off in my attempts to win. When I do, it is out of courtesy.
Courtesy is also very important to me. Everyone who knows me knows that I am a “gentleman”. Some extreme people people might call this sexist, but I believe that men should be courteous to ladies. This includes holding doors, taking coats, and other actions of chivalry.
Some people are offended by this conduct, but more people enjoy it. It is a good way to meet people or make new friends.
Making new friends seems to be the theme of my senior year. I have become much more social, even with people I rarely talked to before this year. I also have joined many new clubs, including Spanish club, American Field Services, International Relations, and As Schools Match Wits. I used to be very shy, but now I am learning to be more forward. But, given time, I can easily make friends. Some of my good friends say i should be a politician because of my skill in diplomacy and making friends.
My skill with words is reflected in my poetry. I am fairly good with writing creative poetry. I also like to write creative prose, but I am not as talented wit that as I am with poetry. I mostly like to write science fiction or adventure stories. My biggest problem is that I don’t have enough time to write long stories. Time is one luxury I would love to have more of.
I usually type instead of write my stories, because I can type faster than write. I also use my word processor on my Apple ][+ computer. I also like to program my computer. I have a fluent knowledge of BASIC, and I know a little PASCAL. When I have some extra time, I either try to teach myself PASCAL or just play games. I like the fast-moving games as well as the strategy games. After all, who doesn’t?
While I play these games, I like to listen to my tapes. My favorite music includes the groups Adam Ant, Queen, and the Stray Cats. Music plays a great role in my life. I also like “Rockabilly” music. I mostly like fast music because I like to dance.
When I’m not dancing, writing, or making new friends, I like to relax. Sometimes while I’m watching television, I like to analyze the commercials and look at the advertising techniques. I also like to look at politicians like this.
During the recent election, I liked to watch the candidates over a long period of time and see if they changed at all. I also liked to watch the way they spoke to the public. “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’” This is what politics means to me.
Whatever I happen to be doing, I also happen to be having a good time. There is almost nothing that can’t be made fun. Even so, I always look forward to doing something else, for I can rarely keep in one place. I like to be doing something all the time, even if it is just daydreaming.
I daydream quite a bit. I fantasize about being successful in everything I do. Sometimes I wish that I was a world class skier. Other times I think of all the things I could do with large sums of money. These fantasies provide an escape from the everyday grind that we all must go through.
Other forms of escape I use are fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. I like to tak eon another character and be that character once in a while. It’s a sort of “alter ego”. It’s strange how most of my characters are crafty, clever, intelligent people who like to get into trouble. I guess I like to play myself—all except the “get into trouble” part. I try to avoid trouble at all times.
I do this because there is really no one hovering over me protecting me. I have no real “safety net” if I should fall. My mother lives in Las Vegas, and my father and my stepmother have just moved to San Diego. I stayed in Glastonbury to finish my senior year among my friends and classmates. Over the past three months, I have developed a strong sense of independence. Occasionally my father sends me some money for necessary things such as education and doctor’s fees. However, I have been working and spending my own money on frivolous pleasures such as lunch and clothing.
I am living with my step-grandmother, but she is very active and rarely home. Much of my time is spent out with my friends. During vacations, my college friends come home, and I spend much of my time with them. Sometimes we discuss what we’ve been doing and what we would like to do in the future.
My goals in life all seem to point to the ancient Greek “Golden Mean”. I would like, as I suspect most people would, to be my best physically, intellectually, and emotionally.
However, I also have lesser goals. For example, I want to clear eleven feet in the pole vault this year. I also want to muster enough courage to ski Starr (an expert-only trail on Mount Mansfield in Vermont).
I also have more distant goals. For example, I want to have a good job working with computers and robots after I graduate from college with perhaps a Master’s degree. But, perhaps strongest of all, I want to remember the “best four years of my life.”

Still here? Cool. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Or where you went to (or will go to) college. Or whether you can read. Or if you did any of the things I did, or whether you think I was right about anything in the essay.

And the obligatory PROM PHOTO! Since it was high school, y'all.


Sandra Cormier said...


TerriBruce said...

OMG, this essay is hysterical! I think you talked about everything EXCEPT your career goals and why you wanted to get into computers! LOL! You make me wish I still had my college application/essay. What on earth did I say, I wonder. :-)

Sarah Laurenson said...

I don't remember writing an essay, but I also didn't apply to such schools. Interesting, almost, stream of consciousness writing. One idea flowed nicely into the next. Maybe you got in because you could write something long that made some sense.

PJD said...

Sandra: ROFL, I know, right? I used up all my hair points by the time I graduated high school.

Terri: Since my older son started preparing for college applications, I have been wondering if I still had this essay. So glad I found it. And even happier it makes all y'all laugh. :)

Sarah: To be honest, I think I wrote this over a weekend right before the deadline. I know I revised it a couple of times, but all within a day or two. So... I wouldn't ascribe too much intent to how it turned out. :)

lahosken said...

"Other forms of escape I use are fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons."

Computer Science? Perfect match. Put this one on the top of the stack.