Teen examines why she didn’t get into her dream college: Whiny or realistic?

A senior at a high school in Pittsburgh wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal examining why she didn’t get into her dream college.

Suzy Lee Weiss a senior at Taylor Allderdice High School proposes that high school students have been lied to by colleges – they shouldn’t really be themselves. And she goes on to explain what she would have done differently.

From The Wall Street Journal:

“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?”

You can continue reading the column here. The ending confuses me. She acknowledges being an  “underachieving selfish teenage making excuses for her own failures,” but I can’t tell if she’s being sarcastic or not.

What do you make of her column? How do you read it?

49 comments Add your comment

penguinmom

April 3rd, 2013
2:04 am

I’m sure a lot of people will be offended by her column, but I think it is a mix of tongue-in-cheek and honest assessment. A lot of what she says is true. Students who are involved in diverse activities (or who can make their activities “sound good”) are going to get a better shot at getting into a better school. Admissions offices have a lot of paper to weed through, if you can do something to get your application noticed, you have a better shot. Even if that thing that got you noticed is actually a lot less impressive than you made it sound.

There have been discussions in the past about those parents who (A) don’t want a particular grade in a class to mess up their darling’s GPA or (B) push to get their child a better part/more recognition. As annoying as it is, if they are successful, it will probably mean that their child has a better shot at getting into a particular school. We have a parent at our small academy who wanted to know if their child could be valedictorian this year because of the extra HOPE benefits and for the child’s general college resume.

vee

April 3rd, 2013
5:03 am

sounds like she has a good shot at a career involving writing. expresses herself well. use this to move on.

Teresa

April 3rd, 2013
6:16 am

Theresa honey,

Your blog continues to go down hill. It use to feature many funny comments about your own life but lately the majority of your articles are cut paste the subject matter, bang out a few sentences and you’re done. Its lazy, uninspiring and rather poor in quality. The article you posted yesterday was the pitts with only 17 or 18 posters. It is obvious that no really thought has gone into the subject matters and you are no longer inspired to write. Yet, you teach this in a class which boggles my mind. The blog is just plain and simple, poor overall. Then you can’t figure out repeatedly how to post things in a timely fashion, getting confused or blaming the website.

Hang it up honey, you’re at the end of the line.

Now go ahead and block my IP.

Cheers

motherjanegoose

April 3rd, 2013
6:50 am

Disappointment is a life long experience and so is competition. I face it every week, as I pitch my skills and expertise and am sometimes declined but often accepted. I am finishing my 15th year of working for myself and doing what I love to do. I taught 15 years before this. Disappointment still comes.

My own two are part Cherokee ( their Dad’s Grandpa was full blood) but that never came into play. Perhaps it should have. Maybe some here know more about the opportunities.

My son had a D on his HS transcript. He never even made a C all through school. He did in college. The D teacher was bad and I knew it but I could not do anything. I finally met with the department head and we had some words. I got him out of that class and he had an A in the second semester class with the same subject. I wish I could send an graduation announcement to that teacher regarding him getting his Doctorate in a few weeks. Too many things to share here but the teacher eventually vanished and no one knew where she went. When we met with the reps at potential colleges, they saw his other grades and SAT scores and said “NO PROBLEM”.

Our daughter had good grades and a good SAT score. Not stellar but she also had lots of activities and worked a part time job too. She is doing well at UGA and is happy there.

My parents did not prepare me for college. My youngest sister mentioned this to me last week. She said she is amazed that my middle sister and I finished college as our parents did not enourage us to do it nor did they help out financially. We also lived in a rural area where most of the HS kids did not got to college and many still live there.

This young lady is not the only one who has faced obstacles. Some overcome, some write about it and some choose another path. Such is life. Perhaps she should look into writing.

motherjanegoose

April 3rd, 2013
6:54 am

ooops “a” graduation announcement and he had a different teacher with the A grade.

Alberta

April 3rd, 2013
7:01 am

The fact that this piece was in the Wall Street Journal, who’s owner also owns Fox News, speaks volumes. She’s just another whiney conservative pointing the finger of blame at everyone but herself. I’m surprised her piece didn’t touch on guns or the US Constitution. I hope it is tongue-in-cheek. If not, we’ve got the makings of yet another bigot.

Maybe her “dream college” saw the same things?

dc

April 3rd, 2013
7:07 am

first saw this yesterday in the WSJ….loved it, insightful and humorous all in one!

Mayhem

April 3rd, 2013
7:11 am

I have to agree with Teresa about this blog.

And I also agree with Alberta. One thing some parents fail to instill into their children is Personal Responsibility. It’s everyone else’s fault but yours. Own it.

tchrmom

April 3rd, 2013
7:30 am

I don’t think she is whiney at all. I think she is dead on. You see the same thing when applying for financial aid/grants and scholarships. If you don’t “stand out” for some reason or are vastly diverse or seriously oppressed, then you don’t qualify for anything. Thank goodness HOPE didn’t care about all that. When my son first entered college, HOPE only cared about your GPA. The playing field was leveled. You knew what was expected. Have a 3.0 and you got it. Not sure what HOPE requires now as he is military and on the G.I. bill. But I remember filling out the application for FAFSA. He couldn’t even get a grant of any kind. Apparently we make too much money! (Yeah right) He also applied for many scholarships out there. Nothing…and he did have interesting things to bring to the table. He had part time jobs, he volunteered at summer camp, he was a “Boys State” participant, scholar athlete, etc. Still not enough. And no, not just my kid…I have heard the same from other parents as well. Sometimes I don’t think colleges are looking for the best of the best, they just want to stand out as having the most diverse grouping of students. Maybe they get more money for that…so they can build more student centers for the socially oppressed. And no, I’m not a conservative.

Bgb

April 3rd, 2013
7:30 am

The writer should go to UGA, get a degree in journalism, marry someone in the industry to get her/help her keep a job, then cut and paste the work of others. And of course continue whining and asking people how she should handle every minute task in her life.

This column is demeaning to women and an embarrassment to the AJC and UGA

I get it

April 3rd, 2013
7:39 am

I think she is on the mark with her assessment. Let’s face it, higher education has turned into a thinly veiled financial scam, with so-call ‘desirable’ colleges leading the way—sucking middle class families into their sticky web. Entrance into the good schools has become as much a ‘beauty pageant’ as a measure of expected (potential) or demonstrated academic success. Using factors like ethnic diversity, economic background, trumped-up life experiences, cultural and geographic diversity, and the almighty legacy dimension feeds on itself. And another thing – Let me spell this out – kids and parents, DO NOT borrow money to go to (send kids to) expensive colleges, especially if your plan is to major in (fill in unemployable degree here). And don’t assume graduation from ‘a better school’ with a Women’s Studies degree will ensure you’re snapped up by major corporations for your great intelligence and insight. You’ll be no more employable than with a similar major/degree from Bugtussle U.

I get it

April 3rd, 2013
7:44 am

@Bgb — Embarrassment to the AJC? Seriously, is that even possible? Have you seen the tripe that passes for commentary over at Bookman’s daily doodad?

catlady

April 3rd, 2013
7:45 am

She will likely do well wherever she ends up.

motherjanegoose

April 3rd, 2013
7:46 am

@ tchrmom…we are in the group of those who worked hard and saved our $$$. BTW we had not help from our parents and started out with $500 and lived in a trailer, as in trash. Thus, our kids could not get any aid. We also worked hard to get ourselves into careers that paid more than entry level. So, we “make too much”.

Furious Styles

April 3rd, 2013
8:00 am

She outright admits in her column that she is a quitter and never finishes anything that she starts. Why go off to college is its a 90% chance you’ll quit that as well? Give that spot to a kid that’s in it to WIN it! I think the university did right by not accepting her.

tchrmom

April 3rd, 2013
8:01 am

Yep MJG, same boat. We, too had money put away for college, but thought we’d try for grants and scholarships anyway. Seems like hard work and planning just don’t account for much these days. You actually shoot yourself in the foot by having a little savings because they count that against you. It would have been better if we had filled out the forms implying that we had no money, no savings, one income and 9 other children (all from other countries) living at home. @I get it…you are right. Not many corporations who hire today give a flying frisbee where your degree came from.

TheOracle

April 3rd, 2013
8:04 am

I’ve said it a millions times, getting into college is like a job interview. And what do you do during a job interview? You “Sell Yourself”. The people who do that well get the job. Getting into college is the same thing. Its been that way the past decade or so. She did not do a good job of selling herself and now she’s bohooing. I say suck it up, hone your skills and try again next semester or next year.

LeeH1

April 3rd, 2013
8:07 am

I don’t think she would have any trouble getting into a state college, but only in getting into a highly competitive college, what she calls a “Dream College” in the Ivy League.

Normal doesn’t cut it there. There are plenty of normal students, more than there are places for them. The intelligent student who shows up in smart decisions are the ones who are wanted. Those who coast can still go to a college. They can also go to a community college, take the basic courses, and transfer at a later date.

But the students are competiting with each other, and if they have only normal acheivements, they will only make the normal cuts. So it is with business. So it is with life. The choices you make, or don’t make, in high school will guide you through your life. There are no do-overs for childhood.

(the other) Rodney

April 3rd, 2013
8:15 am

If it’s meant tongue in cheek, I have no opinion one way or the other as I don’t do sarcasm, especially not from the WSJ.

If the author is serious then it comes across as a bitter, angry, and whiney poor-me lamentation of the coddled generation. As said above, “suck it up” and try again, and improve.

xxx

April 3rd, 2013
8:24 am

“I can’t tell if she’s being sarcastic or not.”. Wow, you can’t? Hint; She was, but the sarcasm had a point. The emphasis on trival, worthless, and unrealistic tag a longs on your transcript often are the difference maker in getting accepted into Ivy league schools. These things, which can be easily faked as the writer pointed out, aren’t really what matters. The schools use these because they allow them to check off a lot of other boxes when they desceibe the student body so they can say see how diverse we are? Please don’t boycott or sue us.

Techmom

April 3rd, 2013
8:30 am

I think she’s pretty funny. She sounds very average and average students don’t get into Ivy League schools- so what? Some people are overachievers and some are not. I’d bet even with a Tiger Mom this girl wouldn’t have excelled. She would have rebelled. You have to have some kind of personal initiative (or money) if you want to get an Ivy League school; she apparently has neither.

DB

April 3rd, 2013
8:38 am

Little fish in little ponds sometimes have trouble dealing with sheer numbers. There will be 3.1 million kids graduating from public schools this year, and about 283,000 graduating from private schools. Even if Harvard, Princeton or Yale took the valedictorian from every school in the country, they still wouldn’t have enough space for them all. Yes, you have to be extraordinary. Or your grandparents have their name on a building. *shrug* That’s life. Deal with it.

It’s a numbers game, and the sooner you set your sights on a school that you want and figure out what you need to do to get there, the better off you are. I think that many school counselors are woefully unprepared to advise kids in the early years of high school, which is where kids begin to develop their academic resume’.

Whiny? Sure. She’s disappointed. Oh, well. My son didn’t get into his first choice school, either, much to the surprise of almost everyone. But I remember that one college admissions officer who came to our school to talk had an interesting philosophy: “You get into the school that is right for you” My son was very happy where he went — a top 15 university — graduated in four years with a double major and had a very satisfying academic and social experience. AND he translated that into a great job that he loves. I count that as a win-win.

There was an article a few weeks about profiling about 10 students in Harvard Law School. Each one of them had the smarts. But it was the life experience that they brought to the table that was intriguing. Several had masters in things like public health or even music Every one of them had several causes that they were passionate about. I think that’s what schools try to identify: “What’s your passion?” People with a passion for something other than “Real Housewives” have demonstrated the ability to identify problems and solve them. A good trait, for a college student.

DB

April 3rd, 2013
8:40 am

PS: I sometimes think it’s harder for a lot of kids these days, who have grown up as what I call the “self esteem” generation, where they have never had to deal with “losing.” For many of them, this is their first major “loss.” Interesting to see how they deal with it.

jarvis

April 3rd, 2013
8:49 am

How did she stack up?
No mention of grades or test scores.

Really ...

April 3rd, 2013
9:02 am

…if you cannot tell that this is satire then you REALLY need to re-read the last sentence of the article…

jarvis

April 3rd, 2013
9:08 am

As an FYI, Harvard is 40% white. Next is Asian at 17% and Unidentified at 12%.

Hispanics and black make up a combined 13% and her 1/32nd Cherokees and their Native bretheren make up less than 1%.

I imagine the rest of the Ivy League is similar.

Her being white wasn’t an issue. Her sense of entitlement was.

Abe Froman

April 3rd, 2013
9:22 am

What a brilliantly written, entertaining read. This is what is LACKING in today’s youth – the ability to be witty and smart, while being able to write a concise, perfectly organized essay/letter. I don’t read bitterness or laziness in this letter. I read a person who is pointing out that the standards for admission into Ivy League schools are sometimes fake and do not reflect upon the student’s ability to be an asset to their student body. What is the value of diversity if it waters down the quality of the pool?

JF McNamara

April 3rd, 2013
9:30 am

As others have pointed out, maybe its that she just isn’t a good student. She certainly didn’t do her research on diversity. She gets an A at whining and dragging up stereotypes and an F in realism.

http://www.nationaljournal.com/thenextamerica/education/ivy-league-schools-don-t-reflect-u-s-minority-ratios-20121019

“In the fall of 2011, the undergraduate enrollment at Princeton was 6.5 percent Latino, 5.1 percent black, 11.8 percent Asian, and 36.4 percent white (the remaining 40 percent count as multiracial, Native American, foreign students, or unknown).

The Ivy schools generally fall short in mirroring the national minority population, which 16.7 percent Latino, 13.1 percent black, 5.6 percent Asian, and 1.7 percent Native American, according to government data. “

BehindEnemyLines

April 3rd, 2013
10:23 am

Seems like a pretty astute assessment – albeit too late to do her any good – of the admission process for most top tier colleges (let’s say upper-third even). It’s why I’ve known numerous seniors with outstanding grades & test scores who spend a year running JV Cross Country in order to be able to fill in the “athletics” segment of the application (literal or figurative) … in spite of the fact that their times are worse than my completely out-of-shape 40something self would be.

Edward

April 3rd, 2013
10:35 am

Perhaps instead of her creating a FAKE charity, she could have spent some time on a REAL charity, you know, actually helping someone besides her whiny, self-centered, selfish, entitled self. This is not sarcasm, it is a rant from the troll who has been visited by karma.

Sk8ing Momma

April 3rd, 2013
10:39 am

Yes, 100% whiny! It sounds like her dream college did itself a favor by not accepting her. Can you tell that I have a very low tolerance for whiners???

My guess is that after she gets over her disappointment, should she choose to enroll in another school that she’ll be just fine…I hope! In the meantime, I hope she matures and has a change of perspective — one based on personal responsibility.

Sk8ing Momma

April 3rd, 2013
10:41 am

@ Abe: What is the value of diversity if it waters down the quality of the pool?

REALLY??? Do you really believe that diversity actually waters down the quality of the pool? If so, shame on you. It appears that you need to do a little research and look at reality v. stereotypes.

jarvis

April 3rd, 2013
11:04 am

I don’t believe that diversity waters down the pool, but achievment should reign.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 3rd, 2013
11:22 am

I believe I read that the young woman had connections to the Wall Street Journal editors so she’s not doing so bad working her own thing — connections are important too.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 3rd, 2013
11:29 am

When we lived In NY all these young women had publishing jobs and it always turned out that their mothers or aunts were editors there. Or that they all met at Ivy League school. So connections also important.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 3rd, 2013
11:41 am

Gwen Ifill from PBS was just at ASU’s journalism school talking about the need for diversity. We’re talking about diversity in regards to newsrooms and stories this week in my class. It is very interesting to hear the young people’s views on this.

I think I shared before how in one of my classes we were talking about violence being covered in the media and what was appropriate to show (photos). One student was from Norway and another girl was from South America and because they grew up with different media and different standards, it was great to have their viewpoints in the classroom.

Tatiana

April 3rd, 2013
12:01 pm

Theresa,

I too agree that your efforts with this blog have decreased and are no longer strong or funny. The purpose of a blog is to express yourself, your thoughts and ideas and await a response… cut and paste seems to be the common norm for the last 6 months with you. Lately it seems to me you do a Google search on a child topic, read a quick article, write literally 4 sentences – cut paste – and then post it. Its obvious you are no longer into your work or it would show more.

Why not hand it over to one of your friends for a while, seriously.

Its just dull quite frankly.

Ann

April 3rd, 2013
12:35 pm

She is a good writer, funny, and creative. I wouldn’t call her “average”, as I don’t think the average student these days has good writing skills. Her article shows some independence and creativity that is outside of the “cookie cutter” mold. Some employers look for this type of thinking.

Ann

April 3rd, 2013
12:43 pm

@ LeeH1 Re: “The choices you make, or don’t make, in high school will guide you through your life. There are no do-overs for childhood.” This is true in some ways, but only to a point. The world is filled with millions of people who “change” their path in life beyond “high school”, whether it is shifting careers or overcoming past mistakes or problems.

Childhood is meant to be a time for playing, learning, exploring, and discovering your unique self. I would hate for my child to go through the rest of his childhood with the tension that every little decision locks him into some sort of path he is stuck with. If there is pressure to make sure you “do childhood right”, that defeats the whole purpose of childhood, a time that should be “carefree”, filled with laughter and exploration, and free time to find your way at a “snails pace”.

Our society is currently focused too much on “getting into the right college” and too little on what actually leads to happiness and satisfaction in life, including having meaningful relationships.

The book “Teach Your Children Well” by Madeline Levine is a wonderful book on this topic. One of the subtitles of the book is “Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More than Grades, Trophies or Fat Envelopes”. She is not writing about “values” in any religious since, but what is important to your life. She redefines what “success” is and talks about how to raise independent, innovative, productive, well adjusted children. College paths and the different perspectives among children and their parents are discussed in the book as well.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 3rd, 2013
1:05 pm

Let’s look at the last 10 blogs that have run — 4 out of 10 were about our family and family life dilemmas that others may be experiencing. I wrote just yesterday about taking dance lessons with my husband. To a large extent, blogging is about looking at other news articles and discussing them. I am looking for trends and items that other families may be experiencing or things that I think are interesting.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 3rd, 2013
1:09 pm

Let me add that as always I am thrilled to run your family’s dilemmas or issues or topics that you guys would like to discuss. You are welcome to send me ideas through Facebook — I don’t check that gmail account very often because it’s all product pitches. I love getting ideas from you guys!

Let me also add that I don’t use as many family situations as I used to because people just got meaner. My kids are older now and are very aware of the blog, and I’m not putting the out them for public ridicule. I think I share more personal stuff on our Momania FB page because people are identified and aren’t mean generally.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 3rd, 2013
1:17 pm

Ann– I am going to look for that book — it sounds very interesting and helpful!

K's Mom

April 3rd, 2013
1:42 pm

@ Ann, I want to read that book too! I read a lot of John Rosemond and this book sounds similar to some of his musings.

motherjanegoose

April 3rd, 2013
2:04 pm

@ Ann…thanks for the book recommendation. Even though mine are grown, I would love to read it.

TWG, I will not contact you through Facebook. Just saying and perhaps you do not care. That is fine.

@ DB…I loved this and agree:

Little fish in little ponds sometimes have trouble dealing with sheer numbers.

What about BIG fish in little ponds. I know some of them too!

bgb

April 3rd, 2013
2:11 pm

From TWG prior post: “… To a large extent, blogging is about looking at other news articles and discussing them.”
– To a large extent the business world is about listening to customers and putting out a quality product
– To a notable extent, AJC’s customers are saying – “blah, time to move on with someone new and better”

“…You are welcome to send me ideas through Facebook — I don’t check that gmail account very often because it’s all product pitches…. Let me also add that I don’t use as many family situations as I used to because people just got meaner. My kids are older now and are very aware of the blog, and I’m not putting the out them for public ridicule.”

- There’s that quality UGA journalism professionalism we have come to love, decoder rings required
- Perhaps if you can’t write like you used to, because of meanies and time commitments … it’s time to move on

jarvis

April 3rd, 2013
2:14 pm

I don’t contribute on the FB page because….well to be honest….it’s a “mom” page. I don’t need the ridicule from my boys.

jarvis

April 3rd, 2013
2:31 pm

@bgb, Do you know who Curtis Woodhouse is? Look it up.

Abe Froman

April 3rd, 2013
4:18 pm

Ann – you sound like an awesome mom. Good for you. It is sad our children have to grow up faster than we did. They are exposed to so many things earlier in life and now have Facebook and video phones and text messaging and everything else to worry about. I didn’t think about college into my junior year, went to a great state school and got a lot out of the experience. I hope that Suzy Lee has the chance for that experience as well. Like I said before, anyone who can write as clever and insightful column has a bright future.

SEE

April 4th, 2013
3:21 pm

Yep, getting into a college is a game-playing strategy. I have 5 kids, all white males, so vastly over-representative in the college field. (No, I’m not bitter about it. It’s just a fact and I need to help them stand out a little more.) My first guy up-to-bat is an academic all-star achiever. A power hitter, he knocks out all accelerated courses, all AP classes offered, all As. High SAT scores means no problems getting into Tech, and with our large family size, likely to get financial help as well. I eagerly “pushed” band on him, and was thrilled that he took up the flute (not many male flautists). Hopefully, he’ll land a leading role in the marching band, which will be enough to make it a college home-run. Next player, also an academic all star and accomplished piano player. He wants to go to West Point (I’m thrilled. If he gets in its FREE!). He is joining CAP (Civil Air Patrol), and he’s also in 4-H. We have plans to get him “sponsored” by his senators (for the recommendations required). He’s obviously playing in the same major league as his brother. Third up…okay, he’s a single hitter, but at least he’ll get on base. He’s academic batting average is a little above average, but not exactly shaking the world up. He’s very personable and popular with classmates/family relations, but that doesn’t help unless he’s in an interview. He is a runner on the track team and does well, so that’s a plus. All-in-all, he won’t have a problem getting into college, but it won’t be the top and he probably won’t get any money (our family size will be smaller at this point). I’m thinking community college in a high need area, like physical therapy assistant. The 4th child is MID, so it’s as if he’s playing basketball on a baseball field. He’s going to go a completely different route. Job coach, hands-on-training, and a lot of prayer. Who knows, he may end up a backdoor slider…we’re still looking into options for him. My final player is a knee-biter who has just accomplished walking. He’s reluctant to try new things and stubborn to boot, but he’s got some cunning on him and may just end up an ace. He learned to climb stairs early so he could raid his brothers’ room and steal their charger cords. Despite all that, he’s a charmer who is forgiven his crimes by his brothers. I’m thinking he’s perfect for politics. Lucky for him, he’s 1/32 Iroquios…and he just might have the natural ability to make that pitch work.

I guess you could say I’m a tiger mom…albet one with no connections and little money. However, I have insider knowledge, a lot of humor and I’m committed to playing the game. So, let’s go out there and PLAY BALL!