Getting into a top college drives some students to bury their heads in books and others to sacrifice most of their free time for extracurricular activities to separate themselves from the pack.
But Bernie Zak believes Twitter may have put him over the top, even though his school of choice the University of California, Los Angeles says otherwise.
The 18-year-old senior at Brookline High School found out in early April that he had been placed on the wait-list to get into UCLA this fall, and that the final decision would be made on June 1.
But 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, in which he would tweet a new reason every day about why the college 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, and 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 he said it has a rare blend of academic excellence along with a strong community and sports. His desire for community at school led him to co-found the Superfans club at Brookline High School that organizes support for sporting teams at the school.
Also a baseball player at Brookline High School, 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 the school should accept him because he was “Born and raised #BostonStrong.”
For more than two weeks Zak continued counting down the top 50 reasons why the school should let him in:
In late April, the UCLA student newspaper, the Daily Bruin, spotted Zak’s Twitter campaign and wrote a story about it.
Then last Monday, April 29, Zak said he woke up after an evening nap and was trying to think of another reason to tweet when he realized he’d received a letter from UCLA in the mail saying that his admission status had been updated, and when he checked on line he learned that he had been accepted.
Of course, he tweeted it.
THANK ALL OF YOU SO MUCH! OFFICIALLY A @ucla BRUIN CLASS OF 2017— Bernie Zak (@berniezak) April 30, 2013
A UCLA spokesman, Ricardo Vazquez, said that because of confidentiality reasons, the university can not comment on the admission status of any student. But in general he said that 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 wait-list can also write an additional essay or provide the university updated grades, he said.
Vazquez said the university was aware of Zak'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 university had said it would make its final decision.
Zak said he plans to study economics at the university, but he hasn’t chosen a career, yet.
His successful 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.