Zach, left, Aaron, Nigel and Nick Wade at Lakota East High School. (Greg Lynch/The Journal-News, via Associated Press)

It was Nick Wade’s idea to write about being a quadruplet. He went on a college advice website called College Confidential, and in a chat room about college admissions essays, asked whether other people thought this would be a good idea.

A college essay adviser, Christopher Hunt, noticed his question, and replied, in essence, “That’s a no-brainer.” But Mr. Hunt, a former journalist now living in Boulder, Colo., had some advice. “I said, ‘Yes, that’s good, but you can’t just leave it at, “Oh, gee, I’m a quadruplet.” Tell readers how that influenced your life.’”

So Nick did. So did his brothers. It has paid off.

All four brothers, who go to high school outside Cincinnati, have been accepted by Harvard and Yale, among other top schools.

The Wade quadruplets have spent a lot of their lives trying to carve out individual identities. But when it came time to apply to college, they took a different approach: a package deal. After briefly considering submitting a joint application essay, they decided that each would write an essay detailing his experiences as a quad.

In a clever stroke, the four brothers wrote essays that can be read separately, yet are meant to be read together, like four pieces of a puzzle. Each piece is charming and winning on its own, but together, they are even better, and college admissions officers everywhere seemed to agree and were unwilling to pull them apart.

Nick’s begins: “‘Wade. Wade. Wade. Wade,’ shouted my football coach as he called roll at breakneck speed. ‘Here,’ we shouted in unison.”

Aaron’s begins: “‘Yes, Nigel?’ the teacher said. I lowered my head and glanced back at Nigel’s vacant desk.” Even though the four boys look different, when it came to the teachers, the essay said, “We were four boys who shared one face.”

Nigel begins: “0.00000125 percent. The chance that my mother would give birth to quadruplets. 100 percent. The chance that this woman striding towards me and my brothers was about to make me feel like the black sheep.”

Finally, Zach’s essay begins: “‘Change your shirt,’ I said.” (He and Aaron arrived at breakfast wearing the same thing.)

It was not an easy balancing act, said Aaron, a musician with perfect pitch who wants to study artificial intelligence. “Our approach was to establish an identity as one of these quads, and then outside of being a quad,” he said. “I think that really bolstered the way we are perceived. Our own personal aspirations and goals played a role in that, and that’s what made us individuals, as well as being quads.”

The Wade quads are “fertility babies,” conceived through a fertility procedure, a growing part of the college-age population. So it seems likely that admissions officers will tire soon enough of reading college essays about multiples. But for now, they are still a novelty, in the Wades’ case both because they are quads and because their parents managed to raise four exceptionally high-achieving boys.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Anemona Hartocollis