To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me
If only I had a tiger mom or started a fake charity.
By SUZY LEE WEISS
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.
Ms. Weiss is a senior at Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh.
I was disappointed to see you run the op-ed piece last Friday by Suzy Lee Weiss, an articulate high school writer who has drawn, at best, dubious conclusions about the college selection process. Here we have an articulate, intelligent writer drawing naive, cynical conclusions about how the real world works before she has ever entered it.
As you are probably aware, this article is currently the Most Read and Most Emailed piece on WSJ. By running this piece, the author may interpret her viral success as a validation of her cynical perspective of the real world. Even scarier, she may think finding a platform to express her resentment towards others as an appropriately healthy response to the adversity and failure that she may face in her life. Now imagine how many of her peers who are in her shoes right now (or perhaps were once in her shoes) who empathize with the author and may draw similar conclusions. What a shame.
I would hope that everyone at the WSJ feels a certain sense of social responsibility to positively influence and inspire our younger generations. I’m all for public discourse by encouraging diverse, sometimes incendiary, perspectives, but what healthy dialog is initiated by publishing the emotional tirade of a high school girl who has just gotten her first taste of adversity? It seems we are doing our younger, more impressionable generation a disservice by promoting this negative life outlook and endorsing this form of response to the challenges we face in the real, imperfect world we live in.
I’m a 25-year old American entrepreneur now building a rapidly growing marketing company in Brazil. I did not get into my top college choice or receive any job offers before graduation. Both were the best things that could have ever happened to me, as they’ve put me on a path that has landed me where I am today. I graduated alongside many smart friends with equally high IQs. The ones who are still blaming structural limitations of the world they live in are still toiling unhappily, both professionally and personally. They are focusing their energy on the wrong problems. It’s the ones with the attitude that they can achieve and persevere through anything that are at the forefront of exciting new frontiers. These are the people who inspire me on a regular basis. I hope we can all do our part to encourage the Suzy Lee Weiss’s of the world to persevere and inspire, not sulk and whine in the face of adversity.