By Austin Hill
It started as a joke, really. It was more of a way to relieve the frustration of wasted hours than a strategic plan implemented with sure intents. I felt as if colleges quickly skimmed over my email and discarded it as another “one of those,” so I thought maybe if I attached a picture of some sort it could garner enough of their attention to give in to my request. And so it hit me. I would accompany every email with a picture of my cat.
At the end of my email, I added the tagline, “To compensate, here is a picture of my cat,” and sent it to every college in Ohio. After being enlightened with the brilliant idea, nothing was the same. The t-shirts started coming in, as did signs of arthritis in my thumb, but it became well worth it. I scoured the United States map, checking off one state a day thanks to all the free time granted near the end of the school year. At its peak I was receiving about four to five shirts a day, along with countless pens, pennants, stickers, and pictures of various house pets. The volume of mail became absurd, so much so that the mailman would skip our house on his daily routine, later to come back with his van.
>> Read Part 1: The T-Shirt Project
There are many memorable stories that came from this experience. One of my favorite response emails read:
We are alike in many ways. Obviously, my name is Austin, too. I also have an orange tabby cat. Here is my picture of my cat and I. We are the manliest of man and cats.
Another instance involved an admissions counselor at the University of Northwestern-St Paul named Jackie. Her email was generic, saying that I could only get a shirt if I were to visit the campus as the college does not mail out shirts. However, she concluded her email by asking what my cat’s name was, probably so she wouldn’t feel awful about crushing my dreams. As it turns out, my cat’s name was also Jackie, and a week later I received a box of three shirts and a drawstring bag from the University of Northwestern- St Paul.
My absolute favorite incident was a package from Bethel University. It caught me by surprise when I opened a package and pulled out a custom made t-shirt featuring the picture that I had sent them. With it was a letter telling me that they were out of shirts, so they instead decided to make one, as well as a picture of the admissions office posing with the shirt. Even though I will never wear the shirt because it is extremely uncomfortable having a giant cat on your chest, it is still a valuable possession.
So there it is. I got all my college shirts by sending cat pictures to every college in the United States. Unlike what everyone assumes, they have nothing to do with colleges recruiting me because of my grades, test scores, or athletic endeavors, but rather because I have a cat that can hit the soft spot of admissions counselors around the country.
Contact Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org