University of Pennsylvania to Benjamin Franklin, 1755

Dear Bronze Statue of Benjamin Franklin, Congratulations!

Dear Applicant,

Thank you for applying for the undergraduate class of the fledgling University of the State of Pennsylvania. Due to a high volume of qualified applicants, we regret to inform you that we are unable to accept you as a student in the Class of 1759. Rest assured that your application was considered carefully by our admissions board.

While your curriculum vitae is impressive, simply having designed and created the university does not guarantee automatic admission. We were disturbed by how many extracurricular activities you have taken on, including inventions, newspaper owning, chess, and the harp. While we encourage our students to be well-rounded, we don’t want them to be circus freaks either. We recommend you take the time and focus to develop a true skill, like carpentry or very quiet reading, and then reapply in ’56. Also, aren’t you 1/32 Indian? We are always looking to develop a less diverse student body.

We wish you all the best in the future.

Sincerely,

James Logan

Chair, Admissions Board

Analysis:

The college application process is one of the most cherished American traditions. Every year, around this time, eager students compete for the privilege of paying ludicrous amounts of money to leave their parents, start getting drunk on a regular basis, try marijuana, and occasionally sit in on a lecture and/or administration building. The admissions letter, or more often, rejection letter, has been used to inform students of their fate with a cackling glee since before independence. Of course, rejection letters are not an American invention. Gregorian monks alerted their prospective members (or “pledges”) by sending them a letter to meet at a certain place, then chanting at them when they arrived. The Bible tells us that God informed Moses that he would not be admitted to Holy Land Tech by sending him a letter which, when opened, killed the person reading it. Today, a similar letter has been designed for Republican party leaders in an attempt to reduce the number of unqualified applicants to Presidential Primary A&M.

Ben Franklin was indeed rejected on his first try when he applied to the university he helped create. Although a fine applicant on his own merits, the incoming class was particularly competitive in 1755, and Franklin’s many extracurricular activities could not hide his 1140 on the SAT. He was accepted to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and almost enrolled, but finally decided against it, famously declaring that “no man, no matter how terrible, is enough of a douche for that place.” Instead, he took a year off to travel and went hiking in the wilds of Vermont. There, he gave an entire tribe of Indians syphilis. This bumped up his credentials, and Franklin was accepted to Penn the following semester.

Franklin’s time at college was eventful. The great inventor came up with a number of innovations, such as the keg party. He started the first American fraternity, Franklin Franklin Beta, and later that term, invented the jello shot. To round out his list of notable academic accomplishments, he is also credited with inventing date rape, known at the time as “socializing.” With so much focus on his inventing, it’s easy to see how he could have flunked out midway through his second year. After switching his major from Economics to English Literature, then again to Communications, he was unable to maintain his grades. It is believed he first uttered his now-famous aphorism after hearing the news, though scholars believe the original draft was “Early to bed and early to rise, makes no sense on a Wednesday during rush week.”

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