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The Essay About Papa John’s That Got One Girl into Yale

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When Carolina Williams was asked to describe, in 200 words of fewer, “something she loves to do” on her Yale application, she chose construct a narrative about ordering delivery from her favorite pizza joint: Papa John’s.

The essay worked wonders; Williams, a high school senior at Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tennessee, was admitted to Yale in late March. Williams’ admissions officer responded rapturously in a personal note to her following her acceptance, claiming that the idiosyncrasy of her chosen topic and her funny, self-aware voice made her a standout candidate. (Papa John's was also quite pleased.)

It's a paean to Papa John’s that's brimming with sensory detail. The essay, in full:

The sound of my doorbell starts off high, then the pitch mellows out, and the whole effect mimics an instrumental interpretation of rain finally finding a steady pace at which to fall. I have spent several minutes analyzing its tone because I have had many opportunities to do so, as one thing I love to do is order pizza and have it delivered to my house. When the delivery person rings my doorbell, I instantly morph into one of Pavlov's dogs, salivating to the sound that signals the arrival of cheesy, circular glory. It smells like celebration, as I love to rejoice a happy occasion by calling Papa John's for my favorite food. It tastes like comfort, since having pizza delivered to my quiet home is a way for me to unwind. It looks like self-sufficiency, because when I was younger, ordering pizza made me feel grown-up, and it still provides that satisfaction for my child at heart. Accepting those warm cardboard boxes at my front door is second nature to me, but I will always love ordering pizza because of the way the eight slices of something so ordinary are able to evoke feelings of independence, consolation, and joy.

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Isn’t that something? It’s ambient and scenic, and, like the best food writing, food adjacent—about so much more than mere ingredients.

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Williams isn’t going to Yale after all; she’s opted for the more affordable, and nearby, Auburn University. Either way, perhaps there’s a budding food writer in her. Carolina, though you’re just about to start college, we’re hiring another Staff Writer, and we welcome the opportunity to discuss.

Tags: papa john's