Carolina Williams, of Brentwood, Tennessee, said it was “surreal” when she found out in March she was accepted at Yale University.
Even more bewildering for the high school student was when a few weeks later, Williams received notes from the Ivy League university's admissions team that singled out an application essay she wrote about her love for Papa John’s pizza.
“It really tickled me that they specifically commented on that one because there were a ton of essays,” Williams, who wrote nearly 10 essays for her Yale application alone, told ABC News. “I think it stood out because it was just very genuine and reflective of me and it was kind of taking a risk, I guess.”
Williams wrote about ordering Papa John’s pizza in reply to a 200-words or less essay prompt to write about what you love to do.
“I love to order pizza from Papa John’s so much. I do it like once a week,” she said. “That was my first thought when I saw that prompt.”
Putting aside worries her essay topic would seem “silly,” Williams wrote about how ordering from the pizza chain gave her independence as a child and was used as both a source of consolation and celebration as she grew up.
"As a fellow lover of pizza, I laughed out loud (then ordered pizza) after reading your application," read one note to Williams from Yale's admissions team, while another read, "I laughed so hard on your pizza essay. I kept thinking that you are the kind of person that I would love to be best friends with."
The night Williams was accepted to Yale, she celebrated by ordering a Papa John's pizza.
“That’s why I liked getting the responses to [my essay] so much because it made me realize that they genuinely wanted me,” Williams said of the personalized responses from Yale “I wasn’t trying to write something that I thought they would enjoy.”
Yale has an admittance rate of just 6.7 percent, according to its website. Even though Williams, the first in her family to go to college, was thrilled to be admitted to the Ivy League school, she instead plans to attend Auburn University in the fall.
“I chose Auburn because I love the South and I love the whole school spirit there,” said Williams, who will attend the university’s honors college and plans to major in business. “Yale is a great school but Auburn just felt like home to me.”
The Alabama-based university also has another advantage over Yale for Williams.
“The good thing about Auburn is they have a Papa John’s in their student center on campus so I’ll be there all the time,” she said.
Williams will also be able to feast on some free pizza as a college student. Papa John’s gave her a few gift cards after Williams shared her story on Twitter.
Williams said her experience offers a lesson for future students applying to colleges.
“Just write about what’s reflective of you and then if they want you they’ll accept you and know that they want you personally,” she said. “Try to be creative and think outside the box but just do what comes naturally too.”