* reading time is 2 +  a laugh.

* disclaimer: Please Do NOT…Do NOT… tell your kid to try this, nor should you try it even if happens to align with your circumstances. I disclaim any responsibility for any adverse effects. And don’t use me as an example.

I hacked my university twice. I finished my undergraduate and graduate from DePaul University without having a High School degree or even a GED.

How many people can make the above claim in America?


Hacking might have a negative connotation to many people, but it is a positive thing in Silicon Valley. It is more or less taking advantage of a system. I know a few companies, it’s mainly startups (with weird names) that ask “Tell us about something you hacked before.” as an interview question.

It always reminds me about the story that Ben Mezrich told in this book about Mark Zuckerberg. It’s called “The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal” Mark had hacked a few departments in Harvard and obtained tens of thousands of student profiles, then migrated them to Facebook. Remember, Facebook was empty at day one. He needed real profiles to fill Facebook with real people.

Knowing I come from a Middle Eastern background and it is a post-911 era, how would the American Public view me? I am sure many will go as far as labeling me… (Well, you know what I going with this.)

I hadn’t finished high school when I left Iraq in early 1994. I didn’t want to stay in Iraq to finish High School, because it would’ve obligated me to stay another full year. I would’ve only been able to leave after finishing my first semester at a university. Very simply, I wanted to leave at all costs and come to America.

After a year and half waiting in Jordan, I had arrived to Chicago. My uncle took me to Niles North High School, they told me: “You are too old for high school. You should go try to get a GED.

Humm. I tried to study for GED, but didn’t like it. It felt like a waste of time.

Then I did something different. I went Oakton Community College and tried to enroll in some English and Math classes.

It worked.

After two years of Math and English, I started to take classes that would transfer to a university. So far so good, they never asked me for my High School degree. As long as I was paying for my classes, they had no complaints.

The problem came, when I wanted to transfer to DePaul University. They asked me for my High School degree or GED. I didn’t have it. I was worried. I had to sell my story and so attempted my hack.

Well, I know from a long time ago that to sell a lie, you must package it with 90% truth.

I told DePaul that I had my degree (a lie). But I cannot get it from Iraq. I talked about the Iraq war and the destruction of all the government buildings of Iraq, which the American army bombed. I talked about the effect of war and consequences of being a refugee in Jordan. (90% truth)

With a Sad look mixed with Sorry and some Sugar on top…It worked!!!

All I did is I packaged 10% lie with 90% truth and sold it. I hyped the problem injected with a lie and packaged it with a truth.

I sold my package.

This to me is the art of diplomacy.

The problem surfaced again when I tried to enroll in a graduate program. But this time, I was staying at DePaul so it was much easier to convince the administration office. I had already earned my undergrad degree from them.

I find the question of hacking to be dangerously relevant. The next time I am being interviewed for a job and they ask me to talk about a system I tried to hack, I’ll tell them this story and ask them to imagine the following:

You are from the Middle Eastern background and you are at the ticket counter at the airport. They ask whether or not you packed your own bag…

And your answer to them is….What???

You used Ali’s Packing Services!

What do you think man?

Do you really expect an honest answer about my extensive hacking background?


* Any comments? write below. I love to read them.