Thursday, July 11, 2013


"What Does #YOLO Mean to You?" Is Now a College Essay Prompt

Applicants to the Tufts University class of 2018 (yes, that's the class of two-thousand-eighteen) are asked to provide three "short responses" to a number of prompts; the third and final prompt has six options to choose from. It includes the following:

E) The ancient Romans started it when they coined the phrase "Carpe diem." Jonathan Larson proclaimed "No day but today!" and most recently, Drake explained You Only Live Once (YOLO). Have you ever seized the day? Lived like there was no tomorrow? Or perhaps you plan to shout YOLO while jumping into something in the future. What does #YOLO mean to you?

Your suggested length is 200-250 words. Think outside the box, Tufts says. (The school, it should be noted, is known for its "quirky" applications.) "Take a risk and go somewhere unexpected. Be serious if the moment calls for it but feel comfortable being playful if that suits you, too." You have until 9 a.m. We'll collect your responses then. Good luck!

H/T Hairpin pal Carrie Battan, photo via jstephenconn/flickr

64 Comments / Post A Comment


I hope to see more of the "blame the Romans" tag.


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A++ image use. I was just in Yolo County visiting my sister and felt deeply amused.


@special_boots I went to grad school in Yolo County, so I can only think of Davis, CA when I hear that phrase.


@special_boots - I wonder if native Yoloians are bitter that the tag they used to discuss hometown happenings have been taken over.


I did once write a paper for a freshman lit class the first week of college about that feeling of just going for it and doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.

In my defense, I was an 18 year old in art school, was obsessed w/ the beats, called my carpe/yolo "GO" ala john clellon holmes, and i was definitely day-drunk.


@leon s My college admissions essay was about concealing a 100-degree fever from my parents so they'd let me board a plane to Hawaii. #YOLO

(sorry, fellow passengers)


lol, I love this article!@n


Are you sure you want to make gumbo tonight? Your Okra Looks Off.


@stuffisthings My favorite is still Jeph Jacques's "You Obviously Like Owls"


@meetapossum I believe Black Larry King tweeted that it should mean "You Oughtta Listen to Oprah" which is my favorite so far.


It's true: Young Ornithologists Love Orioles


That article about Prince's fridge may have been a joke, but it's a fact that Yaks Only Lactate Occasionally.


Yes! Or, Like, Okay?


OK that's enough. Yep, Only Like Onemillionpuns from me.


I could keep going but I'm afraid Tufts may grant me an honorary degree and I don't want that on my resume.


Oh lawd I suppose they have to fucking Tumblr their answers or some shit (Twitter is too short).


@iceberg also: 200 words??? that's like, nothing!

Clay Shirky@twitter

@iceberg That's a typo from Emma mis-transcribing the Tufts site. The suggested length of the answer is 200-250 characters.


@Clay Shirky@twitter To be fair, if I was going to read a bunch of 17 year olds' ideas about what it means to "seize the day," I'd probably be like, okay, 200 words max. No, 200 characters. 20 words? 20 characters? Okay, 2 characters: NO.


@yeah-elle I used to read entrance essays for my alma mater. The years I got the kids in the science stream were the WORST. "This picture looks sad. That is why I want to be a doctor, because sick people are sad. I would be a great doctor because I am smart and people-oriented. My experience as a volunteer at the hospital that one time leads me to believe I would be a good doctor."

Holy shit, yolo kid.


@iceberg It's one of multiple essays, most likely - colleges seem to be trending more towards several short answers instead of one long essay - the University of California does it that way (when I was applying I think it was one 500-word and two 250-word answers? Mills College asked for a couple of short answers and then for the essay from high school I was most proud of, or something (b/c I was expected to still have a copy??))


@RNL How does one get this gig? I feel like it would be equal parts upsetting and weirdly satisfying.


@squishycat Barnard College's supplement to the Common App was like that back in the day--a whole bunch of short answers/mini-essays. I vividly remember it because reading through all those questions was the exact moment I realized I wasn't actually interested in Barnard.


I'm sure that will be very entertaining for the admissions office to process. (I get to look at student applications as part of my non-admissions job, and all we ask is for a boring essay on some life event that changed you. Although some students still manage to answer charmingly and win my heart.)


@frigwiggin I wonder how many students just, like, make shit up. I had one question for the UC system (like, a decade ago) that I don't really remember but basically boiled down to asking me to describe myself socially, and pretty much went with the truth of "I am awkward as fuck and I can fit in marginally well with some of the weird-kid social circles (the computer science nerds, the theater kids, the kids who actually LARP on weekends no really it's awesome!) but I'm not really good at being, you know, not-awkward enough to be "cool" in any group. So yeah."


When I first started seeing "YOLO" everywhere I was really confused why everyone was talking about Northern California. Especially... not the prettiest part of NorCal.

polka dots vs stripes

@Brunhilde Well at least it has good views of prettier parts??

(spent exactly one year in Yolo county, still will defend it daily)

Away Laughing

@polka dots vs stripes The county slogan is "Yolo County - Two Hours From Cool Stuff."



Seriously, Davis is pretty nice, I actually moved back there again for a while a few years after law school there. Admittedly it would be nicer without all the undergrads.

polka dots vs stripes

@Brunhilde Summer in Davis was so nice, and then mid-September happens....


@All Yolo has redeeming qualities! Good olives grow there! It's just not my favorite NorCal county.


Perfect picture! I went to college in Yolo County (UC Davis--go Ags!) and grew up in the neighboring county. The YOLO proliferation was first perplexing and is now delightful.

Blue skies

Any Tufts alumnae out here on the 'Pin besides me? First they added the youtube supplement...

But really I imagine the people in charge of admissions justifying this question as follows: "Because, yolo."

Tuna Surprise

@Blue skies
"Because safety school."


@Blue skies jumbos woooo!


@Blue skies ha, yep, I saw this and went "meh. not surprised."

and then I freaked out because 2018 HOLY SHIT.

Blue skies

@mangosara yes 2018 what is that?! Are you sure you're born yet?

Faintly Macabre

@Blue skies I was in Porter waiting to meet my old roommate for dinner a few weeks ago and saw a kid wearing a 2016 or 2017 shirt. I inwardly died. And then thoughtfully passed that feeling-ancient-despite-not-being-so onto my friend at dinner.


@Faintly Macabre et al: Tufts alum here (Fletcher '95). Obviously I get the whole YOLO thing really well because I'm almost dead.







I once drunk-commented "YOLO" on an acquaintance's Facebook status and one of his friends wrote something about how OH she DESPISED the very SENTIMENT of "YOLO" and I didn't know if I should say, "Sorry, I was drunk!!! hahahah lololol YOLO" so I just said something like, "Congratulations, how wonderful."

polka dots vs stripes

Adding to the choruses of "Was very confused about why people suddenly cared about a county in California that has exactly 4 towns but lots and lots of farms."

Be But Little

My first thought was "but that's not the meaning of carpe diem!" *grumbles something about the misinterpretation of Horace's Odes and decontextualization of the final line of 1.11*


@Be But Little - Can you enlighten a fellow 'pinner?


@KeLynn I'm not sure precisely what @Be But Little was thinking, but I do think the Odes as a whole contain more looking to the past and the future than the isolated and context-free phrase "seize the day" implies. I mean, it's the same work where Horace scorns the emperor and notes that his poems are "a monument more lasting than bronze."

For a hilarious rhymed translation of Odes 1.11, see the Perseus website - coincidentally, a Tufts project.


@KeLynn As for most things in life, we must turn to Cracked.com for the answer:

"The original, extended form of the phrase is "Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero," which roughly translates to "Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future." Note that it's not about ignoring the future, but rather not trusting that everything is going to fall into place for you someday. It was compared to picking the fruit as it grows on the tree, taking life as it comes and doing the work that's before you."


Every once in awhile I will have a moment that really draws my partner's age difference into the forefront of my mind. Like when we were at a party and he whispered into my ear, "Wait, what's a yolo?"


You Obviously Like Owls. Aka Questionable Content.


Here is my YOLO story: One time I jumped off a waterfall because YOLO and ended up with two collapsed vertebrae so, yeah, you may OLO but I'd rather not do it with a useless spine.

christopher hart

Hm Nice story christopher hart


@christopher hart cool story bro ...iceberg


Hairpin, no Robert Herrick callout in comments? You disappoint me.

Although lactating yaks are consoling.


I dislike YOLO mostly because it's just about as helpful to anyone as proclaiming BSiTW (bears shit in the woods) or tPiC (the Pope is Catholic). Unless you're a believer in one of those ressurecty faiths, I guess.

Briony Fields

YOLO as a verb amuses me greatly. Like, "Look, there's a fox YOLO-ing his way through that county fair!


My English teacher friend thinks this is a trick question to get kids to give some partying answer and thus eliminate them from the pile. Sounds legit.


My younger brother's college admissions essay made me cry with laughter. It was a Faust/Waiting For Godot mashup set in Chicago.

These impending answers would probably make me want to cry with boredom. (Or maybe not? You only yodel openly?)


I'm currently a Yolo County resident, and I'm pretty amused by all the YOLO fuss, particularly when pictures like "Yolo county line" are part of the commentary on it. Yay Davis! (Not an undergrad anymore, but used to be one and then...well, here I am again.)


Mills College asked for a couple of short answers and then for the essay from high school I was most proud of, or something (b/c I was expected to still have a copy??))
You only hack once

Jamie Lawson@facebook

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