(This essay, by Hugh Gallagher, won first prize in the humour category of the 1990 Scholastic
Writing Awards. It appeared in the May issue of Literary Cavalcade, a magazine of
contemporary fiction and student writing published by Scholastic in New York City. Gallagher,
who was eighteen at the time, grew up in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, and attnded New
York University that fall.)
3A. In order for the Admissions staff of our college to get to know you, the
applicant, better we ask that you answer the following question: Are there any
significant experiences you have had, or accomplishments you have realized, that
have helped to define you as a person?
I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel
train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I
translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time
efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.
I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe
inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an
expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.
Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in
the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by
the Mets. I am the subject of numerous documentaries. when I’m bored, I build large suspension
bridges in my yard.
I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of
I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon
over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I
receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last
summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat .400. My
deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust
I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise
Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire
dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I
have performed covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a
chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who
had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.
I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I
participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to
write it down. I have made extraordinary four-course meals using only a Mouli and a toaster
oven. I breed prize-winning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions
in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed
open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.
But I have not yet gone to college.