March 27th, 2014 is a day that will live in infamy for many high school seniors rejected from the colleges of their dreams, myself included. It’s amazing how the simple phrase “We are unable to offer you admission …” can cut so deeply. In one moment all of the years you spent preparing for those applications, all of the hours you spent studying for AP classes and taking part in extracurricular activities seem utterly wasted. In one moment all of your dreams and the bright future you envisioned is taken out by a nuclear explosion, decimated into a barren waste land with no survivors.
Everyone will say, “But look, you still got accepted into some great colleges!” or “You’re still going to be very successful in life, this doesn’t define you.” and of course they’re right. A few rejection letters do not determine how happy you will be in life, what job you’ll have, or even how much money you make. But at the same time, they leave a shadow of doubt wherever you turn. In many ways the rejection letter begins to represent your future failure, a lack of confidence in your future ability to succeed. And we are left with the heart wrenching question: Where do I go from here?
The first and most important thing to know is that you are not alone. I, along with the thousands of other rejected high school seniors, know how you feel. Suzy Lee Weiss, a little known high school senior who was rejected from not one, but four of her top college choices knows how you feel. In fact, she wrote an article about it that was published in The Wall Street Journal. An article which, in my humble opinion, perfectly captures the frustration and cynicism associated with college rejections. I would like to take this opportunity to show you the article for both its entertainment and altruistic value.
“ 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.
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.
I also probably should have started a fake charity. Providing veterinary services for homeless people’s pets. Collecting donations for the underprivileged chimpanzees of the Congo. Raising awareness for Chapped-Lips-in-the-Winter Syndrome. Fun-runs, dance-a-thons, bake sales—as long as you’re using someone else’s misfortunes to try to propel yourself into the Ivy League, you’re golden.
Having a tiger mom helps, too. As the youngest of four daughters, I noticed long ago that my parents gave up on parenting me. It has been great in certain ways: Instead of “Be home by 11,” it’s “Don’t wake us up when you come through the door, we’re trying to sleep.” But my parents also left me with a dearth of hobbies that make admissions committees salivate. I’ve never sat down at a piano, never plucked a violin. Karate lasted about a week and the swim team didn’t last past the first lap. Why couldn’t Amy Chua have adopted me as one of her cubs?
Then there was summer camp. 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.
Or at least hop to an internship. Get a precocious-sounding title to put on your resume. “Assistant Director of Mail Services.” “Chairwoman of Coffee Logistics.” I could have been a gopher in the office of someone I was related to. Work experience!
To those kids who by age 14 got their doctorate, cured a disease, or discovered a guilt-free brownie recipe: My parents make me watch your “60 Minutes” segments, and they’ve clipped your newspaper articles for me to read before bed. You make us mere mortals look bad. (Also, I am desperately jealous and willing to pay a lot to learn your secrets.)
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 link to the article is right here:
After reading this I couldn’t help but feel a kinship with Suzy Lee Weiss. We shared the same frustration, the same anger, the same powerlessness. Her clever satire of the entire admissions process and our desperate attempts as applicants to win college’s favor through less-than-genuine means was entirely relatable. Maybe we were not ethnic or diverse enough, maybe we should have started a fake charity as she suggests, or began a campaign for the “underprivileged chimpanzees of the Congo.” In the end, the admissions process seems so arbitrary and random. How can universities like Harvard choose one 2400 SAT over another? In a sea of perfect grades and test scores how does one distinguish themselves? I don’t know the answer to these questions, nor will I pretend to, but I do know that your worth is measured by so much more than an acceptance or rejection letter. Earning a college degree means something, but it’s what you do with it that matters in the long run. Underneath all of the seemingly lost hopes and dreams, under the “what ifs” and the doubts, there is a bright future for those brave enough to face it head on.