A high school senior named Suzy Lee Weiss has been in the news recently after penning an article titled To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me. She writes about the lies she’s been told and the dreams that were taken away from her because she didn’t play the game the colleges want you to play. Here’s a sampling:
“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.”
I understand how you feel. I really do. I know people who graduated from private schools with very impressive CVs and got into great universities yet they can’t string a bloody sentence together. I know people who ran charities and social justice conferences and played on sports teams in high school yet in university have no interest at all in charity, social justice, or athletics. Did they simply change their minds? No of course not. They are shameless social climbers who know that they can cheat the system by building a list of fake interests and thus a fake personality and intellect. They have no integrity. Integrity is the key to your whole dilemma.
Universities are not lying to you. Universities want you to “just be yourself”. They want genuinely interesting, smart, and passionate students. If you are yourself, you show integrity and if everyone showed integrity then fewer people would have perfect resumes and you might get into a better school. But what does it say about the school that is so easily fleeced by the the social-climbing tactics of seventeen year students and their ambitious parents? It’s not difficult in conversation to tell if Sally McPrepSchool is actually interested in environmentalism or aids research or whatever she pretended to advocate in high school. That means that the universities are either unable to see the obvious fakery or they accept it: both pretty damning possibilities. And you still want to attend these pathetic schools? The one showing a real lack of integrity is you for coveting the approval of an institution that doesn’t value whatever it is you think you have. If you’re brilliant and Yale can’t tell, why would you want to go there? In essence, whoever it is that sees your value for what it really is is the one who deserves your respect and attention.
Perhaps more importantly, you seem to think that you deserve to go to the school you want because you have the prerequisites. Supposedly you think you have something that these perfect applicants do not. What is it? You say in your article that you had a dearth of hobbies. How did you spend your free for the past seventeen years? You say you’re a writer. What have you written? You see, university recruiters see two kinds of people: those who may have faked interest in something and those who have done nothing. Who would you choose?
I feel strongly about your problems because they are my problems too. I am still trying to catch up to the kids who were doing internships while I was working a minimum wage job to pay tuition. I was writing while other kids were attending leadership conferences and other such nonsense. But I also wasted a whole lot of time. I watched a lot of TV, played a lot of computer games and watched a lot of youtube videos. I know that my success hinges on my ability to produce so I spend as much time as possible learning new things and producing. Your notion that being genuinely mediocre is superior to inflating your success is false. If you want recognition of your value as a human being you have to do more than meet the prerequisites, you have to do something valuable.
And the worst part is that you did get into good universities, just not the Ivy League schools you wanted. I cringed when I watched your video as you sat smugly discussing the fire that rejection set under your bottom inspiring you to write your opinion piece. People talk about you like you’re an up-and-coming writer who the unfair system has overlooked and you’ll come back with a vengeance. The viral media is not a test of your writing skill. Just look at cat memes to put your intellect in perspective.
Bottom line: schools choose the people they want as students. If they don’t choose you then you don’t have what they value. If you don’t share a school’s values and you still want to go there then I don’t see why any school would want you. You are worse than a social climber; you’re a lazy social climber. At least you are self deprecating and admit that you’d rather watch TV than talk about your own entitlement. It’s good to know your place.
What do you think? Does Suzy have a right to complain? Or should she accept that the schools that chose her see whatever she’s got and they like it so she’s in the right place after all?