Viewsday

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Powell: College admissions are a full-contact sport

A Penn State University student walks across campus

A Penn State University student walks across campus in front of Old Main on main campus in State College, Pa. (July 12, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Ah, yes, it’s that time of year again. No, not spring. College admissions season.

Across the nation, high school seniors are shrieking with joy or disappointment as they get word from the colleges they applied to this winter.

The disappointment of one high school senior, Suzy Lee Weiss, was heard nationwide after the Wall Street Journal published “To (All) the Colleges That Reject me,” her satirical op-ed.


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“Colleges tell you, ‘Just be yourself,’” writes Weiss. “That is great advice, as long as yourself has nine extracurriculars, six leadership positions, three varsity sports, killer SAT scores and two moms.”

Weiss, who attends Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, argues that earning good grades and high marks on SAT and AP exams aren’t worthy of acceptance anymore. Instead, applicants need to juggle a slew of activities. Even better, they should have some characteristic that colleges will see as an opportunity to increase their diversity.

“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.”

Weiss’ critics don’t seem to understand her point. They say she’s over privileged and whiny. That she should just get over it.

The last paragraph of the piece, though, suggests she already has.

“To those claiming that I am bitter—you bet I am! An underachieving selfish teenager making excuses for her own failures? That too! To those of you disgusted by this, shocked that I take for granted the wonderful gifts I have been afforded, I say shhhh—"The Real Housewives" is on.”

The piece, which bemoans the admissions process as misleading and skewed, has garnered its fair share of praise from those who have worn Weiss’ shoes and made similar observations. But others have taken the piece too seriously.

Weiss doesn’t feel bad for herself and, in fact, she’s probably going to a great college. I’m willing to bet that she’s an honors student and involved in activities, too. In a video interview with the WSJ about her piece, Weiss reveals that she was accepted mostly to school in The Big Ten, which includes Penn State, Northwestern and University of Michigan.

And she’s not arguing that lazy teenagers who barely scrape by or show little potential should be handed scholarships to Ivy Leagues, either.

She’s pointing out that the admissions process has become a game. It’s overly selective and seemingly random. For the mass of students who do well and take leadership applying to tough schools, there’s little rhyme or reason to their acceptances and rejections. Yes from Harvard, no from Brown.

In the same video interview, Weiss said that the rejection has “lit a fire” under her and encouraged her to pursue writing.

To other disappointed high school seniors—rejection is a part of life. Learn from it and move forward. Make the best of where you go to school. In the end, that will matter more than the name of the university.

And who knows. Maybe you can begin your quest to raise awareness for “Chapped-Lips-in-the-Winter Syndrome” when you get there. 

Tags: college , admissions , rejection , application , suzy lee weiss

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