Jim Bock ‘90: I AM the Admissions Mistake.

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

I remember when I first found out. 

For weeks I had gleefully brandished my Swarthmore acceptance letter, shouting to all who cared to listen than this was the validation I had been seeking for the entire life. At long last I was the coolest kid in school. A larger than life Bock Office hit. I didn’t just walk the walk. I Bock the Bock. And I made damn sure everyone knew it. 

But I was living a lie. 

Did I, mediocre Jim Bock, the George Costanza of my high school class, really deserve to be accepted into Swarthmore? I could hardly believe it. And when I received an anonymous letter – published in full directly below –outside my front door just days before my Freshman Orientation, I knew exactly why. 

Every year, we tell our incoming class the same B.S. time and time again. Everyone is special. You all have brilliant minds destined to succeed. No one’s an admissions mistake.  

But it isn’t true. It never was true. And so long as I am the Swarthmore gatekeeper it will never be true. 

Because every year I let one thoroughly unworthy student slip by in my honor. 

Every year I make ONE admissions mistake. 

And if you don’t know who it is…

Just look in the mirror again.

“Every year Swarthmore receives applications from thousands of qualified applicants. You were not one of them. Not even close.

The students we select possess exceptional intellectual abilities as well as remarkable personal qualities.  You, unfortunately, have about as much intellectual ability as a rock. A Bock rock. Valuable talents, experiences and views are all things you clearly don’t have and we don’t really believe you’ll contribute much of anything to the Swarthmore College community.

Did you really think Swarthmore was going to open its gates to likes of Jim Bock? Just look at yourself.  Stats? Mediocre. Essays? Forgettable. Extracurriculars? Meh. And your recommendations? So bland you’d have thought they were being written for a Haverford application.

So let’s be real. You’re not worthy enough to join the better angels in Swarthmore and gain access to our divine intellectual nourishment. To be a part of the hallowed world of the best and brightest. The land of the cool and the home of the brave.

But not even heaven is mistake-proof.

We messed up.

We let you in.

You are this year’s admissions mistake.


Swarthmore College


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