Suzy Lee Weiss is a high school senior who got a pile of rejection letters from elite universities. She then wrote this piece in the WSJ, entitled “To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me.” For those who are not fluent (or at least conversational) in irony, it was apparently a bitter piece; to those who love some good satire, it was comedy gold. Take, for example,
Colleges tell you, “Just be yourself.” That is great advice, as long as yourself has nine extracurriculars, six leadership positions, three varsity sports, killer SAT scores and two moms. Then by all means, be yourself! If you work at a local pizza shop and are the slowest person on the cross-country team, consider taking your business elsewhere.
What could I have done differently over the past years?
For starters, had I known two years ago what I know now, I would have gladly worn a headdress to school. Show me to any closet, and I would’ve happily come out of it. “Diversity!” I offer about as much diversity as a saltine cracker. If it were up to me, I would’ve been any of the diversities: Navajo, Pacific Islander, anything. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, I salute you and your 1/32 Cherokee heritage.
Classic. The whole elite-admissions process reminds me of a job opening that was for an “extroverted Ph.D. computer engineer, also a J.D.” The expectations are almost laughable, and they result in such a contradiction – a community-focused individual who could only amass such a stellar resume if her parents let the household revolve around her achievements, needs, and excellence. Back at my high school, many high-achieving students said things like, “I need to do community service so I can be eligible for NHS,” as if the point of doing community service were for recognition, not the reverse. Choose to spend time with your actual family, and not other people’s grandparents in the senior centre or other people’s kids, and you are missing a valuable “community service” opportunity – as if making dinner while your parents pick your little sibling up from day care is an act of selfishness.
Miss Weiss laughingly lampoons modern elite college admissions; I am here to snarkily point out that it is a system that all but requires admittees to pathologically ignore the well-being of their families, their own relationships, and spend every free moment building (or padding) a resume. Years ago, an admissions officer said, “One student spent more than 24 hours a day on his activities! Of course, we had to let him in if he can time-travel!” Some of us say – no, perhaps you should reject him for lying or habitually skipping out on his commitments. It is neither a healthy nor an honest system.
It is also an arbitrary system. When I was at an alum interviewer summit for my alma mater, someone started talking about “personal qualities” and how quiet a kid was, and how bad it was that this person was shy. I stuck my hand up and said, “If [alma mater] only accepted extroverts, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. [laughter all around] I do TV interviews, newspaper interviews, lead rallies, teach, and speak, but my 17-year-old self would have been sitting silently in that corner. People grow.” Despite the laughter, it seems as if some people want students to not only be rock-star nerds, but also personally adept – all by the age of seventeen.