Author Archives: Ryan Lee

Tufts Syndrome

“It’s to explain when you get rejected from a college that was supposed tob e a safety.  It’s named after the university, who supposedly would reject kids who were overqualified and probably wouldn’t have gone to Tufts anyway.  Not the Tufts Syndrome is just used as an excuse for students who didn’t get in to a place they expected to.


This is another college application belief, but one that has a good degree of believability — and, indeed, many do believe it.  It makes logical sense that a college will reject someone if they are overqualified and more likely to go to another college, because it will negatively impact their yield.  While there doesn’t exist much proof that any colleges and universities, let alone Tufts, rejects the top applicants to protect their yield, many high school seniors (and their parents), according to the informant, cling to this belief because it helps to soothe the pain of rejection.  It is used so often in that case that it has begun to be seen as an excuse, rather than an actual legitimate reason for not being admitted to the college of one’s choice.

The Lying College Applicant

“There was once a high school senior applying to college.  In his application essays, he wrote about the struggles he faced after his mother passed away from cancer.  The only problem was that his mother was in fact alive.  This eventually came back to haunt him when an admissions counselor, moved by the application essay, called the student’s home, only for the mother to pick up the phone.”


This myth was spread around widely during high school, especially among students who were currently applying to colleges.  It essentially plays on the accepted truth that colleges look for students who have faced legitimate “struggles”, like illness, death of a family member, etc.  To many of the students applying to colleges, that idea is terrifying because they have lived relatively safe, quiet lives.  There exists an entire college counselor industry is based around shaping an applicant’s life into a story, complete with accomplishments, life goals and ambitions.  An easy way to create a story is to create a conflict that the applicant had to struggle against on the way to success.  While many students may embellish to give more significance to a struggle they faced to create a better story, the idea of completely making one up is both funny and somewhat tantalizing to a college applicant.

The legend takes the concept of creating a story for applications one step further, and has a student directly lie about struggles they’ve faced in the past, only to have it eventually ruin their chances when they are discovered.  It’s also partially a morality tale, warning against lying to get ahead, but also allows stressed college applicants to partially indulge in the fantasy of creating a “story” for applications.

Snipe Hunting

Audio Performance:

Snipe Hunting


“So when I was a kid, my Dad and I would go camping with an organization similar to boy scouts.  And they’d take up snipe hunting.  And snipe hunting was like this bird-like creature that you go hunting with — you get a sack, like those huge burlap sacks, and you go with a flashlight and you try to catch these birds.  And it has to be like… every boy needs to experience it because as you’re doing this, my Dad was telling me the stories of when he camped out trying to hunt snipes by himself.  But really all it ends up being are all the dads behind throwing rocks and making sounds, but the kids are just going beserk, like yelling at all these snipes sticking in their bags, are It’s just like a great fun thing to do for both a son and a dad.

This folk custom takes the idea of a “snipe hunt”, which is more conventionally a prank, and turns it into almost a rite of passage between fathers and sons, because the focus was less on actually trying to hunt (or find) the mythical snipes, but also to have a bonding experience.  In addition, the change of snipe from hard-to-find-bird to mythical creature gives the custom a bit more whimsy, making it less of a mean-spirited prank and more a collective experience.

“Disaster never travels alone.” (禍不單行)





“Disaster never travels alone.”


The informant specifies that this proverb, like the others, can have multiple meanings and is often used in everyday speech to mean different things, depending on the context.  “Disaster never travels alone” (literally: “Misfortunes never come singly”), most often, means that bad things will follow other bad things — that disasters cluster.  However, the saying can also mean (though less often used), that disasters aren’t random, but in a sense provoked.  It’s an essentially pessimistic saying, not meant to uplift but to warn.

“As the heavens gain in time so does the man in years.” (天增歲月人增壽 )




“As the heavens gain in time so does the man in years.”


This proverb, like the others, has several ways it can be read, and understood.  The informant describes this one as comparing the lifespan of a single person to that of the universe (or, in a more spiritual sense, the “heavens”).  It can be both read to inspire awe in humanity or, alternatively, reverence to the eternal nature of the heavens.