The Columbia essay controversy is already dying down, but one response to the leak of 70 recently accepted students’ self-posted was particularly notable. A few days following the internet ambush of the public Google drive that housed these winning admissions scripts, Noah Samotin, one of the Class of ’17 contributors, published a piece in teen blog xoJane in which he successfully does what so many of our most public politicians cannot — he owns his mistake. When Noah shared his essay with 1,600 relative strangers from Columbia’s class of 2017, he never expected his personal statement, an imagined conversation between himself and two of Columbia’s most prestigious theater alumni, to be passed around and picked apart by hordes of gossip-hungry media bloggers. “But it couldn’t have only been my yiddishe mama who warned her children that anything posted on the Internet could easily be used to bite you in the ass,” Noah writes. “…if I take my talents to NYC, I wholly encourage you to knock some cents (see what I did there?) into me.”
Noah lays out his original intentions (“to share and build community”) with honesty. He also manages to give himself a little credit without sounding pompous, perhaps save in the provocative title of his post, and proves that he understands the branding aspect of the admissions process:
“Perhaps you think my script is gimmicky. I don’t particularly care, but I don’t disagree with you. I packaged myself in my application as the “Theater Kid” who has performed all the way to the professional regional level and has written regionally recognized plays.”
He also recognizes that regardless of what he and his contemporaries submitted to the admissions board, the stars were simply aligned for them in the ways they were not for others.
“At the same time, my acceptance, along with the other 7% of applicants, boils down to little more than luck.”
In writing this piece, Noah proves to college age students that self-expression has both risks and rewards; and if you’re willing to take chances and process life’s events through an optimistic filter, you’re much more likely to profit, even from your missteps. Based on his thoughtfulness and maturity in handling a barrage of criticism and hostility, any school Noah applied to would probably agree, Columbia is lucky to have him.