Allison Zhang 2.0 – and, no, I can’t believe it either!

(Photos used by permission of both Zhangs)
Allison Zhang from Buffalo Grove, Illinois, sniffs a sunflower; junior Allison Zhang from Sacramento, California, hugs her family’s Christmas tree last year.

I’ve found my better half.

Well, I didn’t really find her. It’s more like the University of Pennsylvania found her for me.

And she’s not really my “better half,” as she’s not my spouse. She’s just me, but better.

Get it?

Okay, here’s a little bit of background: On May 15, I got an email from The University of Pennsylvania confirming a campus visit. The problem was I never registered for a campus visit.

But it was fine. No big deal. Penn’s system probably just messed up and accidentally signed me up for a visit. So I clicked the link to “modify or cancel your registration.”

As I was scrolling through the personal information, everything looked fine.

“Full Name: Allison Zhang,” check.

“Birthdate:” check.

“City: Buffalo Grove.” Hmm, yeah, something’s wrong with the system. I’m in Elk Grove.

“State: Illinois.” Wait, what?

That’s when I realized that I had never even given my name or birthdate to UPenn, so either a good-intentioned ghost

(Photos used by permission of both Zhangs)
Buffalo Grove’s Allison Zhang munches on a slice of pizza; Sacramento’s Allison Zhang poses for a photo during her fourth-grade field trip to Sutter’s Fort, where she played the character of Elizabeth Townsend.

signed me up knowing I needed the help getting my college application process going, or there was another Allison Zhang.

One of these explanations seemed slightly more likely than the other, so of course, because of my natural extraversion (aka my mom told me I should), I reached out to my possible doppelgänger.

And while I didn’t find my long-lost twin, I have discovered a better version of myself.

Buffalo Grove Allison Zhang “religiously goes to the gym” while I religiously eat spicy Cheetos. She went to China on a volunteer trip while I go to China to eat. She plays volleyball while I quit after sixth grade.

But besides our different active lifestyles, we do have many things in common. Both of us are interested in STEM, enjoy cooking and love Chipotle.

Allison (the one from Illinois) was kind enough to write a little blurb about this whole experience, which should provide you, dear reader, with a much-needed break from my own sarcastic and mentally draining writing.

“Throughout my adolescent years, I’ve always been encased in my suburban bubble, focusing mainly on my academics, friends and dabbling in hobbies now and then that interested me.

“But I would have never thought that something so interesting would happen to me, someone who had lived a life of repetition and was so used to that lifestyle.


Allison Zhang of Buffalo Grove is on the left; junior Allison Zhang of Sacramento is on the right.

“I was in physics, sneaking a quick browse through my email before my teacher caught me. I looked over all the college emails I had accumulated over the past month. One message, however, had caught my eye.

“It stood out with its unique subject (“A kinda funny story”) and even more eccentric sender: myself.”

End scene.

After exchanging a few emails, we got busy with finals studying and summer plans, so it’s been awhile since I’ve heard from Allison.

But this whole off-chance “encounter” has gotten me thinking about the likelihood of meeting someone with the same name and birthdate.

According to (Yes, I know, it’s a very reputable site.), there are about 149,640 with the first name Allison, 40,038 with the last name Zhang, and 18 people with the full name Allison Zhang.

The chance of those 18 people having the exact same birthdate (as in the exact same day, month and year) is about 0.53 percent, assuming the 18 people are 78.74 years old (the average life expectancy in the U.S.) or younger.

For comparison, there are approximately 47,682 James Smiths in the U.S., making the probability of two of them having the same birthdate guaranteed. (In fact, at least 18,922 James Smiths have a birthdate twin, if not more.)

But how many have actually contacted each other? I have no idea. My brain is already overloaded with statistics.

Ask the other Allison.

By Allison Zhang

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