How NOT to End Up Like Suzy Lee Weiss

Last month, hundreds of thousands of high school seniors received their responses from many of the colleges they applied to. In an era of intense competition at the nation’s best schools, it’s safe to assume that many of those students were sorely disappointed. But most of them did not express their disappointment in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, and most of them (we hope) were a bit more mature and graceful than Ms. Suzy Lee Weiss, whose outrageous WSJ piece quickly went viral.

Ms. Weiss is a good student: She reportedly has a 4.5 GPA and a 2120 SAT score. Those numbers make up 2 of the most important facts colleges use to evaluate prospective students, and they are certainly competitive for admission at many of the nation’s better schools. But even Ms. Weiss admits that she had little going for her beyond those two numbers, implying in her article that she was not overly active in her school, in charity work, or really in much of anything.

But apparently Ms. Weiss believed that she stood a good shot of being accepted at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, perhaps because of her GPA and test scores. When she was rejected, she was not happy.

Ms. Weiss writes, “Like me, millions of high-school seniors with sour grapes are asking themselves this week how they failed to get into the colleges of their dreams. It’s simple: For years, they—we—were lied to.”

Who “lied” to you, Ms. Weiss? C2 Education is part of a cadre of college admissions counselors who have been saying for years that getting into an Ivy League college is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hard. Just Google “How hard is it to get into Harvard?” and see what comes up. One of the many statistics you’ll find is Harvard’s admission rate, which this year sits at 5.79%. That means that fewer than 6 out of every hundred applicants got in. Yet of the 33,000 students that Harvard rejected this year, only Suzy Lee Weiss felt the need to air her rejection in front of a national audience.

Ms. Weiss goes on to complain that her mother was not like Amy Chua, the tiger mom who infamously called her daughter “garbage” for some minor infraction and whose daughters did get into Ivy League schools. But Ms. Weiss is unaware that students like Amy Chua’s daughters, who are Asian-American, are actually at agreater disadvantage than “average white girls” like her. In fact, there are so many Asian-American students with amazing grades and test scores applying to schools like Harvard that they must score 50 to 100 points or more higher than a white student with the same qualifications in order to earn admission. So if Ms. Weiss wants to complain about getting the short end of the stick for being white, perhaps she should try on someone else’s shoes.

But beyond being “as diverse as a saltine cracker”, Ms. Weiss also bemoaned her lack of charity work. This is the worst part of Ms. Weiss’s rant. Rather than admitting that she should have been more involved in community service, she says that she should have started a fake charity, perhaps to raise awareness for “Chapped-Lips-in-the-Winter Syndrome” or to provide veterinary services to homeless people’s pets. It is interesting that even in Ms. Weiss’s imaginings, she would not start a real charity but would rather exert the effort to create a false charity, suggesting that she does not see the value in charity at all. In case that point of view isn’t clear enough, Ms. Weiss goes on to say:

I should’ve done what I knew was best—go to Africa, scoop up some suffering child, take a few pictures, and write my essays about how spending that afternoon with Kinto changed my life. Because everyone knows that if you don’t have anything difficult going on in your own life, you should just hop on a plane so you’re able to talk about what other people have to deal with.

Ms. Weiss, your dismissive attitude toward charitable acts explains exactly why you did not get into Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. All colleges, but especially the most selective ones, seek students who have passion, drive, an open mind, and dedication to their communities. They want students who will promote the values of their schools, not students who denigrate the idea of charity as just another box to check on the college admissions checklist.

You see, the reason that colleges are so vague about their admissions standards, the reason that they tell students to “be themselves”, is because colleges admitpeople and not numbers on a page. The college admissions process is a holistic process that looks at multiple facets of a student’s record: Not merely test scores and grades, but community involvement, passionate interests, and unique personalities. There is no standard checklist that will guarantee admission to an Ivy League school, and that doesn’t mean that schools are lying to students or gaming the system in the name of diversity.

Suzy Lee Weiss’s so-called satire displayed the worst side of her personality. She handled her rejection with a supreme lack of class, demonstrating to the world exactly why Harvard might not have wanted her on their campus. We can only hope that our students, students who have worked very hard and spent a great deal of time cultivating the traits that colleges look for, will react to their own college admissions decisions with a high degree of grace and class. Because no one is lying when they tell you that getting into Harvard is hard. If it was easy, no one would want to go there.