High school senior Suzy Lee Weiss made waves last week when the Wall Street Journal printed her divisive op-ed about getting rejected from colleges. The piece begins:
“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.”
We know, we know, the college acceptance process is intimidating. That’s old news. But what comes next is indefensible. She writes:
“As the youngest of four daughters, I noticed long ago that my parents gave up on parenting me… 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.”
Sorry, Suzy, the sympathy stops here. You say you doesn’t have a single hobby, interest, or talent to speak of? That’s not your parents’ fault — it’s yours. The college application process can be unfairly grueling at times, but the ultimate goal is to show college admissions officers what you have to offer to their schools. There’s no “right” answer. A passion for musical theater is just as worthy as killer soccer skills or a love of literature. It doesn’t matter what makes you tick, but there has to be something.
College is all about growing up, and that starts with learning to accept responsibility for your own actions. If you haven’t developed “hobbies that make admissions committees salivate,” that’s on you. Whether you’re your parents’ first or fifteenth child, it’s not their responsibility to discover your secret desire to study ballet or untapped passion for chemistry. Given how outspoken you seem to be — most high school students are likely to vent their frustrations on Facebook, not the WSJ — I don’t think you should have any trouble speaking up about your interests.
But beyond college admissions, a life without passions is simply sad. I filled my college applications with pages about how much I love to write and how much I enjoy competing in and watching gymnastics. Two years after I received my acceptance letter to NYU, those statements are all true today. I spent the past few years interning and writing for my favorite publications; when Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, my own hometown hero, won three medals this summer, I was glued to the screen for every minute of it. I didn’t invent a laundry list of passions for my college applications because I didn’t have to. My life is richer and fuller because of my interests, not because of where I go to school or what I scored on my SATs.
You appeared on the TODAY Show this morning to defend your views, and that’s where your story gets even more ludicrous. You reveal you have a 4.5 GPA, scored 2120 on the SATs, and did a stint as a U.S. Senate page. You aren’t quite your typical Average Jane applicant — but then again, you didn’t apply to any old schools. Among the schools that rejected you were Princeton, Yale, UPenn, and Vanderbilt. Yale accepts just a mere 6.8% of its applicants. How could anyone reasonably count on acceptance from any one of those schools?
You also revealed the names of a few of the schools who did accept you: U Michigan, Indiana, Penn State, and Wisconsin. When you recited the list, you beamed and said you’d be “elated” to attend any of those schools. I understand that you wrote your op-ed in the heat of the moment when you were upset. That’s fine. But don’t mislead your reader into thinking you have no other options.
I understand that your piece was meant as satire, but it comes off as entitled and rude. No one will hand you a list of hobbies or an Ivy League acceptance letter on a platter… or anything else, for that matter. You might as well learn that lesson now or college — wherever you choose to go — will be a rude awakening.