Getting into a top college drives some students to bury their head in books and others to sacrifice most of their free time for extracurricular activities to separate themselves from the pack.
But Bernie Zak believes that Twitter may have put him over the top.
The 18-year-old senior at Brookline High School found out in early April that he had been placed on the waiting list to get into the University of California, Los Angeles this fall. The final decision would be made June 1.
Zak, who said he fell in love with UCLA after a campus tour, came up with a plan to lead a Twitter campaign, called #ACCEPTBERNIEUCLA, for which he would tweet a new reason every day about why the university should accept him.
“I didn’t want to just wait,” said Zak, whose Twitter handle is @berniezak. “I wanted to do something.”
He said his sister — Elana Zak, a social media producer at The Wall Street Journal — helped him come up with the idea. On April 9, he posted the first in a series of what he called silly and witty tweets about why UCLA should accept him.
Zak said UCLA had been his top choice because it has a rare blend of academic excellence along with a strong community and sports. His desire for community at school led him to cofound the Superfans club at Brookline High School that organizes support for sporting teams at the school.
Also a baseball player at Brookline High, Zak tweeted on April 12 that UCLA should accept him because the Bruins baseball team could use a practice pitcher. On April 16, the day after the Boston Marathon bombings, Zak tweeted that the school should accept him because he was “born and raised #BostonStrong.”
For more than two weeks Zak counted down the top 50 reasons why the school should let him in, such as:
And on, and on.
In late April, the UCLA student newspaper, the Daily Bruin, spotted Zak’s Twitter campaign and wrote about it.
Then on April 29 Zak said he woke up after a nap and was trying to think of another reason to tweet when he realized he had received a letter from UCLA in the mail saying that his admission status had been updated. When he checked online he learned that he had been accepted.
And of course, he tweeted it.
“Thank all of you so much! Officially a @UCLA Bruin class of 2017.”
UCLA spokesman Ricardo Vazquez said that because of confidentiality reasons the university cannot comment on the admission status of any student. But in general, he said, the school only considers the original content in an application or any new or compelling information related to a student’s academic record that a student adds on the application website.
Students on the waiting list can also write an additional essay or provide the university updated grades, he said.
Vazquez said the university was aware of the Zak family’s campaign, but he added: “A Twitter campaign by any student would have absolutely no influence on our admittance decision.”
Still, Zak said he thinks the Twitter campaign may have helped his bid to get into school, because he was notified of his acceptance long before the June 1 date that the university had said it would make its final decision.
Zak said he plans to study economics at the university, but he has not chosen a career yet.
His Twitter campaign to get into college is now a source of envy for some.
“I have a couple of friends that are pretty mad that they didn’t think of it,” Zak said.
Follow him on Twitter @brockparker2.