How Copywriting Saved My Life
A story of how a little bit of copy changed the trajectory of my life forever.
Since I can remember, my older sister (3 years older than me) wanted to be a doctor. She went hard in school. And was bringing home straight A’s.
I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I was bringing home empty PSP boxes with weed inside em.
None of my parents really expected anything "academically" out of me.
I mean, they yelled. And bitched.
On the daily.
But I never studied. I never did homework.
Half of the time I didn’t even bring my backpack home.
So needless to say when it came time to apply for university, hopes weren’t too high for the boy.
Hopes for my sister?
She was volunteering at old folk homes, working jobs, getting reference letters written - the whole nine to get into a top university in the province.
My Uncle owns a car dealership, so I called him up and said hook up some volunteer hours. He did. I just stayed home and "collected" the volunteer hours I needed to meet the school’s requirements.
But around grade 11, I started reading more self help, discovered things like copywriting and direct response.
And started to go hard in those aspects.
My grades in school somehow started to improve.
I ended the year with an 82.5% average.
Which wasn’t great by any stretch of the imagination.
But it was like going from rags to riches for me lol.
Anyhow, around this stage it was time to apply to University.
Since I was a youngin, I always thought I would just end up at the local College down the street. You know, community college type shit. Just get the degree to make the rents happy. And be on your way.
That was the plan.
But then I had a funny thought:
"How funny would it be if I got accepted into the same university as my older sister?"
At this time, the acceptance rate for my sister’s university was very low.
So the next thought I had was a limiting one:
"Come on Tej, that would never happen. Don’t even entertain the thought. Just fill out the application to the college down the street. And call it a day."
So I did. I filled out that application. Sent it. Then did what I always tell you to do. I said, "Fuck it, let’s just submit an application to my sister’s university too, what the hell?"
I opened it up. First page it said, "MINIMUM grade requirements: 83% Average."
I looked at my average of 82.5% and said "Whatever… close enough… I guess they’ll just have to round up a bit, no big deal."
And hit proceed. Filling out the fields. Until it was time for the essay questions.
Essay questions was where I was planning to make my mark.
Prior to this, I had been going hard with copywriting. I had read all of Halberts, Carltons, Schwartz, Kennedys stuff. So I knew how to work the pen a little bit. I knew how to get the people going.
This was my one and only skill.
So I fired open a Word Doc and typed out the essay question at the top. I forgot what it was. But probably some generic shit such as, "Why should we let you in?"
I took a deep breath, prayed to the gods of direct response, and reverse engineered the question like any good copywriter would by getting inside my targets head.
I asked myself: "What type of person does this university accept and why? What’s in it for the University?"
Then I brainstormed answers.
What type of person does this university accept? Smart, talented, ambitious individuals who want to put their name on the map.
Why? These individuals are likely to perform well in the university without getting kicked out so the university continues to receive tuition, plus has a higher completion rate/success rate - more likely to get fancy jobs (which they can use as marketing to get more students to enroll)
What’s in it for the University? This university wants to build an alumni network of highly successful (rich) people so they can 1) collect donations from these individuals in the future 2) use their name as marketing (if they became noteworthy) to get more and more students to enroll in the University (so and so went here and he turned out to become a billionaire. Where will you end up after going to xyz University, etc.)
I came up with generic shit like the list above.
Then I took a page out of the copywriting manual. And listed down everything I had going against me.
Shit grades? Check.
Low volunteer hours? Check.
No "real" work experience? Check.
I knew I had to address these objections otherwise my application would come across as a joke (which it kind of was, but I didn’t want them to know that).
So I brainstormed answers to the objections.
Then I rolled up my imaginary sleeves.
And told the mother of all stories (my entire essay used a copywriting storytelling approach).
While addressing the above objections.
While highlighting the benefits the University would gain from letting the boy inside.
The whole essay/copy took about 45 minutes.
Then I rolled down my imaginary sleeves.
Hit submit. Didn’t tell anyone. And was done with it.
"That was a funny joke!" I thought.
Weeks went by. Then more weeks.
I didn’t hear anything back.
Then forgot about it. Out of mind. Completely.
Shortly thereafter, a letter comes in the mail.
My mom sorts the mail. Sees the universities logo on one of the letters. And calls my sister down.
"There’s a letter from your University for you."
She walks down. And grabs the letter.
"Mom, this isn’t for me. It’s for Tej."
"For Tej?! Why is your university sending a letter to Tej?" My mom asks.
"I don’t know…"
"There’s a letter for you from your sister’s university, open it."
Oh fuck, I instantly thought. I had totally forgotten about this. Here comes the rejection letter. This is going to be crazy embarrassing. And I’m going to be the source of laughter for weeks to come (my fam has no chill lol).
So I open it. And read the first line.
"Congratulations you’ve been accepted!"
I start laughing. Then show my mom.
"Is this some joke? No way!" She responds.
"No idea." I reply. Truthfully, I thought it was a joke too.
Nobody could believe it. But it was real.
Next week, I go back to high school.
Law teacher goes around asking everybody what university they’re going to after graduation.
He asks me. I tell him.
"No seriously Tej, what university?" he replies.
I tell him again.
"That’s what I said." I reply.
The class laughs.
My friend from the class walks over to me afterwards: "Dude what the fuck, I have a 95% average and I didn’t get accepted? How the fuck did you get accepted?"
It was at that moment I realized…
But a little bit of copy goes a much loooooooonger way.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. If I didn’t get into that university, I would’ve continued hanging with the same friends. I would’ve continued thinking small. I would’ve continued doing what everybody around me was doing. And no doubt in my mind I would be working a dull 9-5 right now. And hating life.
Copywriting saved my life (by getting into that university, my entire paradigm shifted/friend circle changed. And a new and improved Tej was born).
Maybe it’ll save yours too in ways you can’t even imagine right now?
P.S.S. This story has a happy ending for my sister too. She ended up making her dreams come true and becoming a doctor! :-)