Learn about a few college tall-tales that are fake, half-truths, or surprisingly real.
Every college or university has its rumors, conspiracies, and ghost stories. It’s the nature of the college bubble. You’re only in school for a few years and then move away and lose interest in the stories. But the stories were already passed to the next generation. The tales keep getting told, but no one is around long enough to really investigate them.
There are some college rumors and conspiracies, however, that transcend any one campus. Stories so well-known they get turned into movies and TV show plots. Here are a few: one totally fake, one half-truth, and one truth.
The dead roommate
There are a few versions of this story circulating college campuses. The gist of the tale is if your roommate dies during the semester, you automatically get a 4.0 for the term.
The truth is that no school has such a policy. Most schools have policies and services to help students who experience a roommate’s death. But, none simply offer automatic As.
This tale is so popular it was turned into the 1998 film “Dead Man on Campus.” The tale has also been the plot for more than one episode of different TV shows.
Rejection letter rejection letter
There is some truth to this one. Paul Devlin actually sent Harvard a rejection letter. Paul had found a grammatical error in Harvard’s rejection letter to his application. That annoyed him, so he let them know by offering his own rejection. It didn’t work, though; he still didn’t get into Harvard.
Since Paul sent his letter in the early 1980s, the story has morphed a lot. Paul’s mom sent the letter to the New York Times, and it was eventually published in their Op-Ed section. From there, the legend grew.
The fact is, no school has ever confirmed that they have let in a student because they rejected their rejection letter. Some schools do have a system to appeal an admissions decision. However, a reversal of rejection is a rare thing.
Read the book, win a car
This one really happened. But it’s highly unlikely to ever happen again. In 2001, Jeffrey Seiden was studying his electrocardiography textbook when he came across a line that said if he sent in his name and address, he could win a 1965 Ford Thunderbird. And he did.
This happened again recently when a woman won $10,000 by reading the fine print of an insurance policy. So, it’s easy to see where this myth came from: it’s rooted in truth. Or maybe someone decided to make truth from it.
Even if the likelihood of winning a car by reading your textbook is pretty low, you should still read it. Worst case scenario: you learn a little. Best case: you learn a lot. You’re probably not going to win a car because it’s highly unlikely this will happen again.
So, lion statues aren’t going to roar. No cafeteria trays are lucky. And it’s unlikely the zombie monkeys are real. We all know this. But everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows it’s true.
These stories help build identity. College life is built around tradition and pride in your school. Tales like these can help form that pride—suddenly you’re in-the-know of the big secret. Or people know the stories are more exciting than the truth: that the majority of your college life is studying and class time.