High school senior’s viral op-ed lacks maturity

High school senior Suzy Lee Weiss was rejected from her top-choice colleges in the Ivy League, which as a group received a total of 247,283 applications and accepted 23,010 for an acceptance rate of 9.3 percent for the class of 2017. From the perspective of students, the admissions process can be inscrutable, even arbitrary. Given that so many of the factors that decide a student’s fate are outside their control, the desire for more information is natural, as is the frustration that comes with rejection. Private college admissions are not and cannot be completely objective; in the interests of diversity, more than GPA and SAT scores are considered. What “diversity” (and “leadership” for that matter) means is up to the discretion of the admissions committees.

Weiss took the rejection hard and put pen to paper, writing a satirical op-ed submission that found its way into the Wall Street Journal. From there, Weiss has made an appearance on the “Today” show and has reportedly gotten some job offers. While her basic observations about the admissions process hold true, her article suffers from a lack of self-awareness.

The submission itself was intended to be funny, but that is not a license to say whatever you like. Portions of the essay objectified the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community (“Show me to any closet, and I would’ve happily come out of it.”) and Native Americans (“…had I known two years ago what I know now, I would have gladly worn a headdress to school.”). Weiss blasted her parents and college applicants volunteering in Africa, among many others. The article is never funny enough, coming off as mostly offensive rather than cleverly satirical. However, the point stands that these factors are completely outside our control and can be completely subjective.

What Weiss does not acknowledge is that she is in an advantageous position in the first place; the apparent lack of self-awareness keeps her piece from making a stronger point. It is likely that her submission would not have been published in the first place if her sister were not a former assistant editor of op-eds at the Wall Street Journal.

Obviously, the college admissions game is tough; reading more than 30,000 applications like Wash. U. received and accepting less than 20 percent of those is time-intensive and will leave out many strong candidates. Every admissions officer will tell you that there is no blueprint for a perfect applicant. Having “nine extracurriculars, six leadership positions, three varsity sports, killer SAT scores and two moms,” as Weiss suggests, is just unrealistic and part of what makes the admissions process so difficult.

Saying that you are not good enough for college because four high-quality institutions turned you down is simply misleading. Seven of the U.S. News & World Report’s Top 50 National Universities had acceptance rates greater than 50 percent in 2011, and 24 of the 50 had acceptance rates greater than 30 percent. Weiss herself was accepted to several strong universities, including the University of Michigan, which was ranked No. 29.

Students coming from backgrounds that present challenging circumstances are appealing to colleges because they overcome them, not just because they are in them. It is childish and ignorant to blatantly ask for more hardships to overcome.

What Weiss seems to be lacking more than anything in her application is maturity, and, although the undertone that many students are not good enough for top colleges may have some truth-value, the means were largely inappropriate. Instead of lauding her for her courage or offering her jobs and internships, the public should let this become a lesson that the world is tough and not everything is a given.

  • TrueTrue

    I have to say I agree with a lot of this (although it isn’t put in the nicest terms). Universities drool over the prospect of getting diverse kids so they can posturize them and tell the world how progressive they are as a university. Sound familiar washu? “we are so sustainable” (said with one hand out to Peabody energy). I’m not complaining about Peabody, ill take coal money or Lockheed money. It really isn’t fair that an individual be hoisted over someone based on race (or athletics or legacy for that matter). “oh but economics status is a circumstance of birth!”, well lets have socioeconomic based affirmative action (not race based)

    I too bring as much diversity as a saltine cracker. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to africa to care for the needy and they dont have the contacts to set up a huge charity event for the homeless. WashU was the school i had to settled on, i got in the old-fashioned way with good grades and great test scores (lord knows how i got in with just those). I think society is better off taking the best (academic) students and putting them in the best academic schools

    why should i be punished for the circumstance of my birth? yes the same could be said for someone who grows up poor (again coming back to socioeconomic affirmative action) but at a certain point a parent has to make sacrifices

    Life isnt fair, i accept taht and i accept the circumstances of college admissions. That being said i thing the other side should accept the same stance and stop campaigning for affirmative action

    Lets do away with diversity based admission and accept the best students out there (academically)

  • Disappointed Student

    She is correct. I am sure almost everyone from Wash U did something just to get into college… the same way we all do now for a job.

  • Robert Brooks, LAS ’59

    I think her piece is funny, could be funnier, and her satire has many truths, even if politically incorrect. Cut her some slack and do not be so judgmental. Me thinks.

  • MS4

    She is merely naive….her 2120 on the SAT is simply not special or rare, landing well below the average not just at ivies but at duke Vandy WashU and probably a dozen others.

    An unhooked white girl with a 2120 has maybe a 5-8% chance if the rest of the app is stellar. It was a Hail Mary from the start.

    • Robert Brooks, LAS ’59

      You make more sense than the editorial.