It was the summer of my freshman year–the peak of possibility–and I was bored to death. There was nothing to do and so I took to the internet to solve my boredom. Hours later after surfing the web, I chanced upon a story about a guy who had emailed every college in the United States and asked for a free t-shirt. He had received hundreds. Impressed, I resolved to do the same and cure my summer blues..
As I came to find out, shirts don’t just magically end up in your closet unless your mom does your laundry. I was going to have to email them all. One by one from A to Z.
Daunting at first, I broke down the process into a simple system pioneered by my predecessor Tyler Burns (the creator of the legendary idea). It would go something like this: Google a school’s name, locate their website (NorthSouthUniversity.edu), create and attach a personalized letter to the school in a new email, and send it too [email protected]. Google, find, paste, send. At the peak of my abilities, I was able to crank out an email every 15 seconds. Considering that the free t-shirt return rate was eventually about 1:10, I pretty much got a free t-shirt for 2:30 seconds of work. Not too shabby for a high school kid hanging out in his basement.
I was going so fast some mishaps led to funny conversations. (I probably should’ve checked on where I was sending some of the emails). I happened to send one to a female-only institute in Georgia.
Now being a guy, I laughed at Brenau University’s reply,
“While our primary undergraduate school is the women’s college, we do encourage male students to apply for and attend classes at Brenau. However, the experience may not be the same for you as it would be at a traditional co-ed university.”
I bet my experience at a female-only school would be different! I can’t even imagine how easy it would be to date. In the end, Brenau didn’t send me a shirt. They did send me a nice pen though!
After a few more mishaps and funny conversations the first shirt arrived. From Ashland University in Ohio, I was given a beautiful purple shirt–a cotton masterpiece. It is one of the best looking and because it holds the place of my first shirt, I’ve worn it over two dozen times. More shirts slowly trickled in over the course of that week. Then, like Santa bearing gifts, the mailman showed up at my door carrying twelve shirts addressed to me. It was like Christmas! Places like LSU, Ohio University, and the University of Nebraska were pitching in and sending me stuff.
Some of them, I’ll admit, were pretty weird. I received a shirt from the New York Fashion Institute of Technology, that had spelled across the back, “If loving fashion were a crime then I’d plead guilty!” Another school, I’m not going to name names, sent me a bright yellow v-neck whose V was so deep, it stretched down almost to my belly button. Paul Quinn College, instead of sending me an adult small mailed me an adult XXXL one. I could’ve fit three of me in there.
With all these shirts, I took the opportunity to give some away. Local charity? I gave them some. Goodwill? Of course. Christmas presents for the family? I wrapped a few up and put them under the tree. In my locker at school, I always kept an extra shirt on hand just in case someone forgot theirs for gym class or cross country. When they would try to give it back I’d say to them, “Keep it. I’ve got enough.” I even ended up making a quilt with some of the extras.
I got more than shirts. Many colleges who didn’t have clothes to spare, gave me other items. I got thousands of pens and pencils, a flag from Western Michigan University, and piles of posters. National American University sent me an umbrella of all things! Pace University in New York, way by far the most generous, sent me a t-shirt, a long-sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, a coffee mug, a notebook, a tin of mints, and a handful of pencils and pens. Very impressive.
I plastered my walls with posters. Stetson University sent me a poster of their rowing team in action. University of Alaska–Fairbanks gave me a six-foot panorama of the Alaskan wilderness. My favorite was from The University of Chicago–a beautiful aerial view of their campus (at the time I thought I had wanted to go there). After a few weeks, the walls of my room became so covered that I had to start hanging them on my ceiling. When the flow of posters finally stopped, I had wallpapered every available inch of my room with college material.
The most incredible thing about my story is that you can do it too. Everyone I know who has tried this has experienced at least some sort of success. By the end of this, you’ll be considering completely new schools and so will many of your friends. They’ll see you in a random shirt and ask, “where’s that school?” Free advertising for the college, a nice shirt for you.
In the end, I received 302 free shirts, more than 5,000 pieces of mail, and over 20,000 emails. The emails and mail kept on coming but I simply stopped counting back in 2016. In the end, I was accepted to over a dozen of the schools that send me free shirts. I’m now a student at Brigham Young University majoring in Computer Science and run the @BYUFreeFood instagram page locating all the free food on campus.
I challenge you to get a shirt.
Getting free college merchandise, such as sweatshirts or t-shirts, can be an exciting way to show your support for a school or add to your collection of college apparel. While not all colleges offer free merchandise, some institutions do have promotional campaigns or events where they distribute free items. Here are some ways to potentially get free college merch:
- Campus Visits: Many colleges offer free merchandise to prospective students who visit their campuses. This can include t-shirts, sweatshirts, or other promotional items. These visits often include campus tours, information sessions, and the opportunity to interact with current students and faculty.
- College Fairs: When you attend college fairs or information sessions in your area, some colleges may offer free promotional items as part of their recruitment efforts. These items can vary from school to school.
- Online Contests and Social Media Campaigns: Some colleges run contests or social media campaigns where they give away free merchandise to participants. Be sure to follow the social media accounts of colleges you’re interested in, as they may announce such opportunities.
- Alumni and Student Ambassadors: Contacting college alumni or student ambassadors might yield free merchandise. They may have access to promotional items or know of events where they are distributed.
- Athletic Events: Some colleges distribute free t-shirts or other promotional items at athletic events or during special promotions.
- Orientation and Welcome Week: During orientation or welcome week, colleges often distribute free t-shirts or other items to new students as a way to welcome them to the community.
It’s important to note that the availability of free merchandise can vary widely from one college to another and can change over time. Additionally, you might have to meet specific criteria, such as attending an event or being admitted to the college, to receive free items. To find out which colleges are currently offering free merchandise, it’s a good idea to check their official websites, social media accounts, and contact their admissions or marketing departments for the latest information.