Pizza Definition Essay

If I have one operating philosophy about life it is this: “Be cool to the pizza delivery dude; it’s good luck.” Four principles guide the pizza dude philosophy.

Principle 1: Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in humility and forgiveness. I let him cut me off in traffic, let him safely hit the exit ramp from the left lane, let him forget to use his blinker without extending any of my digits out the window or towards my horn because there should be one moment in my harried life when a car may encroach or cut off or pass and I let it go. Sometimes when I have become so certain of my ownership of my lane, daring anyone to challenge me, the pizza dude speeds by me in his rusted Chevette. His pizza light atop his car glowing like a beacon reminds me to check myself as I flow through the world. After all, the dude is delivering pizza to young and old, families and singletons, gays and straights, blacks, whites and browns, rich and poor, vegetarians and meat lovers alike. As he journeys, I give safe passage, practice restraint, show courtesy, and contain my anger.

Principle 2: Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in empathy. Let’s face it: We’ve all taken jobs just to have a job because some money is better than none. I’ve held an assortment of these jobs and was grateful for the paycheck that meant I didn’t have to share my Cheerios with my cats. In the big pizza wheel of life, sometimes you’re the hot bubbly cheese and sometimes you’re the burnt crust. It’s good to remember the fickle spinning of that wheel.

Principle 3: Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in honor and it reminds me to honor honest work. Let me tell you something about these dudes: They never took over a company and, as CEO, artificially inflated the value of the stock and cashed out their own shares, bringing the company to the brink of bankruptcy, resulting in 20,000 people losing their jobs while the CEO builds a home the size of a luxury hotel. Rather, the dudes sleep the sleep of the just.

Principle 4: Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in equality. My measurement as a human being, my worth, is the pride I take in performing my job — any job — and the respect with which I treat others. I am the equal of the world not because of the car I drive, the size of the TV I own, the weight I can bench press, or the calculus equations I can solve. I am the equal to all I meet because of the kindness in my heart. And it all starts here — with the pizza delivery dude.

Tip him well, friends and brethren, for that which you bestow freely and willingly will bring you all the happy luck that a grateful universe knows how to return.

Sarah Adams has held a number of jobs in her life, including telemarketer, factory worker, hotel clerk, and flower shop cashier, but she has never delivered pizzas. Born in Connecticut and raised in Wisconsin, Adams now lives in Washington where she is an English professor at Olympic College.

Independently produced for This I Believe by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick. Edited by Ellen Silva. Photo by Nubar Alexanian.

Copyright © 2005-2018 This I Believe, Inc., all rights reserved. Please contact This I Believe, Inc., regarding reprints and permissions requests at

I just want @PapaJohns to know that I wrote a college essay about how much I love to order their pizza and it got me into Yale 🍕👌

— Carolina Williams (@justcarolina22) May 9, 2017

When seeing snippets of a successful app, PLEASE REMEMBER you're only getting (ahem) *a slice of the pie* – we will be discussing on blahg!

— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) June 6, 2017

This reminds us of the “tortilla essay” that made it into the Stanford GSB many (many) years ago.

You can read more about this current iteration of food in applicant essays at the Washington Post – including the news that this applicant chose Auburn instead of Yale. (wow, that’s pretty incredible right there)

Before you decide to write about pizza in any of your MBA essays this year, we wanted to break down a few things.

First, this is a college application. The rules are (somewhat) different. Applicants to college are like 17 years old. By definition, they have not yet gone to college. You have. The standards and expectations are different for them.

Second, any attempt to replicate another applicant’s success based on following some sort of formula is just so likely to backfire. This young woman was successful in writing about pizza because of the nature of her answer in the context of the question.

As a reminder, the question was “Write about something you love to do” and the space allotted was 200 words. It’s not all that dissimilar to what Columbia is asking in the two variations it’s given you for Essay 3.

One reason we feel this essay resonated with the Yale admissions peeps is because she didn’t overthink it. She loves ordering pizza. It’s meaningful for her, in multiple ways. The remark about how it made her feel like a grown-up when she was younger is particularly insightful; that alone shows some self-reflection took place before she wrote her answer.

However, what a 17-year-old can reveal about herself in a simple story about pizza is going to be different — we hope — from what you will be able to reveal about yourself in a similar short essay.

When most people are faced with the question of “what are you passionate about” they immediately go into I-must-impress-you mode. Many people will launch into stuff like “I am passionate about helping others” or “I am passionate about the environment” or whatever. Those are packaged responses; they may be true, but in many cases they’re more contrived than real. They don’t go very deep.

This young woman was able to show stuff about herself.

Note too how specific she got.

She didn’t say “I love pizza.” She said “I love ordering pizza” and then she described why, with examples. She took you into her world and how she gets excited by it.

It was a direct answer to the question.

It also tells us that probably this young lady did not have the help of an admissions consultant because that type of answer is often ixnayed by “the professionals” as being too meaningless. Instead, her true self came through.

Again, she didn’t overthink it…. but she did think it through. This was an essay she spent time on. She built in layers of her answer, and it reveals stuff to us about her as a person. Plus, it’s quirky; she opens with the bit about the doorbell before going into the true answer to the question. (That’s not necessarily a technique that we think works so great, but again, she’s a teenager; it’s fine.)

The last very important point that we will raise though: This was not the sole essay in her application package. This is what some schools call a “just for fun” question; it’s designed to be low-risk and sometimes high-payoff. You can answer ANYTHING for this type of question. There are no rules for how to handle it, as long as you give something concrete and specific. That’s also true for similar questions in an MBA app, like the aforementioned Columbia Essay 3.

Would this type of answer work for Yale’s single essay asking about a commitment?


Not only was that one essay as part of a set of essays, but the essays are just one part of the total application. We also know that this young lady is the first in her family to go to college. Yale and other elite colleges are actively recruiting from all socioeconomic backgrounds, and the “first in family” profile is particularly of interest to them in helping to increase specific elements of diversity.

Why did admissions officers comment on this essay?

Well, for one, it was memorable.

However, it’s quite likely that the reason that we even heard about this essay is not because of the essay, but because Yale was doing outreach and recruiting to this admit, trying to get her to enroll. Which is what ALL SCHOOLS do. And, in an effort to make that process as effective as possible, the admissions folks who reached out to her specifically commented on what she had submitted to them — in this case, the pizza essay, since it was distinctive and easy to relate to.

Admissions people at many schools do something similar. When they reach out to admits, they want to make a connection. It is, after all, recruiting at that stage; they’re trying to get you to choose them. (Yes, it’s an odd position to be in, when you have multiple offers come in and suddenly the SCHOOLS are courting YOU and wanting YOU to pick THEM; it can be a little surreal when it happens.)

We’d be willing to bet that lots and lots of Yale admits got very similar notes from these same admissions people. It is only because this enterprising young woman tweeted at Papa John’s Pizza to let them know that she wrote about them — and then Papa John’s did what any red-blooded American business would do, they instantly offered her free pizza and the whole thing went viral.

That’s why you heard about it. Because of standard 2017 marketing techniques.

Not because she got in with an essay about pizza.

We’re not knocking the young lady or her creativity. She earned a spot in Yale University, after all. That is not easy to do, whether it’s Yale SOM as an MBA or for undergrad. She deserves the attention.

But please don’t think that there’s a formula for success – or that it has anything to do with pizza.

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