The essay “To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me”, originally published by the Wall Street Journal, by Suzy Lee Weiss, has been making the rounds on social media platforms. She’s even had an appearance on NBC’s “The Today Show”, in which she claims a 4.5 GPA, a 2120 SAT score, and a position as a US Senate Page should have helped her get into the college she wanted. Sadly, Ms. Weiss was not accepted to her first choice Ivy League schools. In her essay she claims that if she constructed a fake charity, was a minority (she is white), or had a tiger mom she would have been accepted to a school she was hoping to attend. The essay Ms. Weis wrote is tone deaf, and she has been called “privileged” and “racist” in comment boxes across the web. All of that is a shame, but Ms. Weiss, and her essay, are indicative of the most damaging challenges we face in this country.
The greatest threat to America today is not terrorism, climate change, North Korea, gun control, or even herpes. The greatest threat today is the perception of education, not the education system itself (that is another story) just, simply, the perception of education. Kindergarten through high school is most certainly a right in this country, and is approached from a factory system developed during the industrial revolution. Do something for an hour, a bell sounds, and then you go and do something for another hour until another bell sounds, and so on and so on, a conditioned response. This can be a good thing, as it is a great way to learn basic math. If my breakfast taco and coffee cost $4.95, and I give $5.00 for the goods, I would like a nickel back with as little analysis as possible. This is schooling.
However, education is subjective, experiential, messy, and odd. It is rarely 2+2=4, it is 2+?=?, and doesn’t lead to definitive result. This is why matters such as affirmative action are so important to higher education. A college education is not a right. It is a privilege. Colleges invite various students from all walks of life, backgrounds, experiences, and even test scores to create a diverse experiential environment. Colleges are not looking for each student to have a 4.5 GPA, what good would that be? Higher education is aware that a student will learn some in the classroom, but will primarily learn from collaborations and experiences with fellow classmates. Simply adding things to your resume, like fake charities, will not help, nor should it.
Ms. Weiss claims in her NBC interview that she wrote her essay as satire, like an episode of “30 Rock” but like each episode of that show there is a truth in joking. The threat that Ms. Weiss has brought to light is that education is something quantitative. I have good news for Ms. Weiss, higher education, and the world for that matters, is a fascinating and complicated place. No one cares too much about your GPA. Of course, the bad new for Ms. Weiss is that this world, and college, is a fascinating and complicated place. No one cares about your GPA. When I look at this young lady’s behavior on “The Today Show”, I wonder what her interviews at those reject colleges where like. Perhaps Ms. Weiss should take a year off school, work at Burger King, or at homeless shelter, or a community garden, watch, listen, and gain some perspective. Perhaps more high school seniors should do the same.