Many high school students with whom I work actually have the qualifications that high school student Suzy Lee Weiss lists in her satiric essay on college admissions (To all the colleges that rejected me, W SJ,3/20/13). They have near perfect grades, stellar test scores, an activity resume that includes leadership/clubs/community service/international travel. Some of my clients have the added pizazz of diversity, overcoming extreme hardship and special talents or hobbies.
It may help Suzy feel better to know that being rejected for admission is an equal opportunity experience. Students who had lots of advantages and worked REALLY hard to groom themselves to be attractive to college admissions officers, also get rejected depending upon where they apply. Rejections happen for a variety of reasons. Colleges tend to accept students who will be a good fit for their culture, active members of the campus community and who will do well academically.
The heightened competition now for college admission is related to the fact that there are more and more high achieving students applying to colleges. That makes high achievers less unique today and the job of admission officers more difficult. So Ms. Weiss is correct that diversity, hobbies or an international trip can be the things that make a difference for them in admissions decisions.
Suzy need not despair however. There is a college for just about everyone. Even kids who now wish they had worked harder. Some of my clients are more like Suzy. They've had less attention and mentoring than others so their activity resume, scores and grades are good but not over the top. There are great colleges at which those students will be a great fit and some have rolling admissions deadlines...which means it's not too late to apply in late spring or even summer.
Suzy Lee Weiss writes very well. My guess is that her WSJ article is not the first time that she has shared her wonderful wit. Where she goes to college is less important than what she studies. I hope she studies writing. With her talent at this young age, it may be that the colleges that rejected her for admission this year will beg her to speak at convocation one day.