ONTD Political

Attention Students: ‘Just Being Yourself’ Isn’t a Skill That Should Earn You Admission to College

9:31 am - 04/02/2013
On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal published a controversial op-ed from Pittsburgh high school senior Suzy Lee Weiss, who was very annoyed she had not been accepted into her dream college, even though she had wanted to be accepted into her dream college.

Entitled, "To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me," the piece is a good old fashioned spiteful rant, flinging glasses of white whine into the eyes, not only of every college that denied her admission, but also every person who has ever been accepted into a college, ever.

The gist of Suzy's opus: while some try-hards spent their high school career trying—hard—to build an impressive résumé so that they could get into their dream colleges, Suzy opted to take a more virtuous path; the path of just being herself and hoping for the best. It didn't work. And that is unfair.

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!

Suzy's mistake, it seems, was interpreting the advice "Just be yourself" literally. Like perhaps someone told her, "Applying to colleges? Ah, just be yourself," and she accepted this as an instruction to pursue no activities other than being herself.

Being yourself is not a talent. If you worked two full-time jobs all the way through high school and one of them was "being yourself" and the other was "trying your best," you actually worked zero full-time jobs. It's important to make time for yourself, of course, but you should be making other things in addition to that. Like goals and plans and effort.

By the way, why are "killer SAT scores"—a very reasonable requirement for college admission—sandwiched between "three varsity sports" and "two moms" on that sarcastic list of things college students "ought," but could not reasonably be expected to have? Is demanding good test scores really as ridiculous as demanding participation in nine extracurriculars?

"I bet if I'd had great SAT scores, they would have accepted me."

I bet that too. That is a safe bet. I bet if you had performed well on your driving exam, you would have a driver's license right now. I bet if you hadn't burned down that barn, that barn would still be standing. All reasonable assumptions.

While we're on the subject, no university would ever offer "Just be yourself" as its sole piece of advice for applicants. Harvard's admissions website offers a list of factors admissions officers consider when reviewing applications. Here's an example:

"Has the candidate been working to capacity? In his academic pursuits? In her full-time or part-time employment? In other areas?"

There's nothing on the page about searching for a candidate who's just, ya know, livin' life; who be's herself.

Oddly, Suzy Lee Weiss' takeaway from the failed "que sera sera" method of college admissions prep does not seem to be, "It was a bad idea for me to try to 'be myself' my way into college," but rather "It is unfairly easy for minorities and gay people and Ke$ha to 'be themselves' their way into college."

"….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."

Fie those lucky gay teens with their glamorous backstories; those Native American freshman swarming Ivy League campuses by the billion. Where are the It Gets Better videos for unexceptional teens dedicating themselves to "I dunno, stuff"?

Much of Suzy's bitter criticism is leveled at her parents (whose lovely home, shared by Suzy, you can tour in this 2011 Wall Street Journal article), whose refusal to force their teenaged daughter to pursue a hobby against her will borders on child abuse:

"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?"

Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of Suzy's essay, though, is her apparent rabid hatred of charity.

She bemoans the fact she never "started a fake charity," and it's not clear whether she's arguing that most of the "charity work" mentioned on applications is simply a lie (a trip to McDonald's becomes a trip to the Ronald McDonald House?) or if she is so unmotivated that, even in her own hypothetical situations, she would rather take the easy way out than put in hypothetical work to found a hypothetical charity. She imagines "raising awareness for Chapped-Lips-in-the-Winter Syndrome," which is a funny joke because chapped lips aren't really a big issue, and "providing veterinary services for homeless people's pets," which is a funny joke because homeless people's pets should starve.

She goes on:

"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."

Ignoring the fact that her hypothetical African child's name is uncomfortably close to "Kunta Kinte" (maybe she meant to name him after Zachary Quinto?), it's not clear what she's satirizing here apart from, y'know, the concept of charity.

In fact, the one notorious aspect of college admissions that virtually no one ever praises openly—the preferential treatment given to legacy applicants who are admitted to schools because of familial connections—Suzy Lee Weiss doesn't touch in her Wall Street Journal piece.

Perhaps her sister Bari Weiss, a former Wall Street Journal editorial features editor, talked her out of it.

Source gets so much mileage out of this macro:

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underlankers 2nd-Apr-2013 01:41 pm (UTC)
OHGODTHESTUPID
grimmerlove 2nd-Apr-2013 01:44 pm (UTC)
Congratulations, Suzy. "Just being yourself" and writing this article has probably guaranteed that no one decent is ever going to hire you, either.
intrikate88 2nd-Apr-2013 02:12 pm (UTC)
Of all the ways of becoming Googleable, "showing yourself off to be a clueless, racist, classist ignorant ass" is probably not the one that is going to aid in a future of "being yourself".

Might aid in a future of being in the cow suit waving a sign on the sidewalk in front of the Chik-fil-a, though.
eveofrevolution 2nd-Apr-2013 01:48 pm (UTC)
The butthurt is strong with this one.
gambitia 2nd-Apr-2013 01:48 pm (UTC)
There are many problems with the college admissions process. Ms. Weiss managed to hit none of them. Kudos to her, as it isn't as if these problems aren't well-known. She could have found them with a google search.
__nocturna 2nd-Apr-2013 01:50 pm (UTC)
It seems like people are getting more and more entitled as the years go by.
hey_spectrum 2nd-Apr-2013 02:56 pm (UTC)
Yep
mycenaes 2nd-Apr-2013 01:52 pm (UTC)
omg this is kind of hilarious. like, the entitlement is obviously gross, but lol @ someone as privileged as her expecting to "be herself" and get into ~all the colleges~.

newsflash, Suzy: not everyone can risk just "being themselves" and hope that they get into a decent school.
bellichka 2nd-Apr-2013 01:52 pm (UTC)
Holy fucking shit. This privileged, entitled little snot.

I have no background that in this young woman's eyes would give me preferential treatment. My grades in hs were eh (90/91 average). I did decent on the SATs (1310, old school grading system). I was in jazz band, the musicals when I felt like it, and did outdoor track my senior year for ~something different~. I worked 9 hours a week at Subway. I wasn't the president of anything. I think I attended one Future Teachers meeting. I did not have two moms. I did not start a charity. I did not hold a bake sale to benefit dying monkeys or beached whales or Bindi Irwin. I did not involve myself in nine extracurriculars, or work two full-time jobs in order to support my hypothetical African child that I ~rescued~.

I went to class, did things I enjoyed, learned some responsibility despite receiving the same complete lack of parenting that Miss Weiss bemoans, set attainable goals for myself, and lo and fucking behold, I got into my top choice.

Excellent use of "bawww" tag. This brat needs to cry moar.
six_dollar_baby 2nd-Apr-2013 03:20 pm (UTC)
I dropped out of high school because i was working full-time. i worked for ten years before applying to colleges- never took the SAT, the ACT, or any standardized test except for the GED (and eventually, the GRE). Wonder of wonders, my top choice college saw my history and accepted me. i worked my ass off there, and wound up at the #4 graduate school in the country. Yes, i'm a decade older than many of my classmates, but whatever.

the point is, WORK. Whether you work as a student, a volunteer, or as a laborer- WORK. Like anything else in life, you get what you give. This entitlement makes me want to throw up.
shoujokakumei 2nd-Apr-2013 01:55 pm (UTC)
First of all, I've never seen a college offer "just be yourself" as advice to applicants. Maybe a particularly stupid high school guidance counselor, but show me a college admissions page with this phrase on it?

Second, here's a thought: Don't apply to colleges you're underqualified for. I had jack fucking shit in the way of extracurriculars, never played sports a day in my life, my SAT scores were above average but not amazing, I never took a single AP class, and as a white female I don't really add much "diversity" (I don't think I ever mentioned my sexual orientation during the applications process) and I still got into a decent state school. Was it an Ivy? No, but who gives a fuck? If I wanted to go to an Ivy, I would have WORKED HARDER DURING HIGH SCHOOL.

Whine a little harder and blame your parents a little more, THAT'S sure to get you somewhere in life.
muizenstaartje 2nd-Apr-2013 02:06 pm (UTC)
I think the "just be yourself" part is to keep young people from stressing too much about how to make a good impression so they won't do over the top things they wouldn't normally do like trying to speak in posh English or wear super fancy clothes to interviews and fail.

It's probably more like "Work hard to bring out the best in yourself and then being yourself should be enough." and not "Just sit back and relax."
rhysande 2nd-Apr-2013 02:00 pm (UTC)
While I think Little Suzy deserves a bit of a smack down for her whiny rant, I'm bothered to see her full name being used. She is still in high school.
chaya 2nd-Apr-2013 02:01 pm (UTC)
She... published an article. Using her full name.

Edited at 2013-04-02 02:02 pm (UTC)
wumbawoman 2nd-Apr-2013 02:08 pm (UTC)
So what kind of -ism is it when someone gets preferential treatment because of their parent's sexual status?



Edited at 2013-04-02 02:08 pm (UTC)
chaya 2nd-Apr-2013 02:13 pm (UTC)
Fictionalism.
nextdrinksonme 2nd-Apr-2013 02:08 pm (UTC)
To be old and shake my cane for a minute, this girl kind of represents everything that's wrong with the current generation. Though she also makes me wonder what she did *wrong* on her application. The few extra curricular activities I had in high school pretty much stopped when I got a job when I was 16. I had mediocre SAT scores, though my GPA was really good (3.8). In my applications and essays I didn't talk about my sexuality or mental illness or anything that made me different or 'diverse'. I hadn't accomplished anything exiting and didn't volunteer for any charities. I just "was myself" in my application and I managed to get into every school I applied to. So no, Suzy, you don't have to be something exceptional and special to get into colleges. You can be white bread. Maybe you got rejected because you're an entitled brat?
chaya 2nd-Apr-2013 02:27 pm (UTC)
Since you were in school (and this is whether you graduated five years ago or fifteen, or more, really) there has been an explosion of new, low-quality colleges, but there has also been a huge uptick in application to 'name-brand' schools as college is becoming the norm for more and more graduating high schoolers. So much like the job market rn, there's a lot of demand for education and not a lot of high-quality supply.
girly123 2nd-Apr-2013 02:15 pm (UTC)
The amount of praise and support she's getting in the Wall Street Journal comments section is...saddening.
chaya 2nd-Apr-2013 02:27 pm (UTC)
I too was expecting more smackdowns.
mollywobbles867 2nd-Apr-2013 02:18 pm (UTC)
I barely even tried in high school and I got a scholarship. Well, I was in choir and Beta club and an honors student and took chemistry, pre-cal, and dual enrollment English and psychology classes. I guess I tried a little, but I wasn't in a million clubs and I have no athletic gifts at all. And my parents wouldn't let me get a job because it had made my older sister's grades suffer. The only thing I wish was different was if my counselor had encouraged me to apply to more schools. But, still, I could have had I wanted to, but I wanted the cheap option.
mycenaes 2nd-Apr-2013 02:18 pm (UTC)
This article also makes me wonder if there's something wrong with how college is marketed in my generation (I'm 24)/younger generations. Like, I started out at a smaller, fancy-pants ~liberal-arts college~, mainly because I was told it would be "perfect" for me, and ended up transferring to a big state university because of mental health issues that...weren't getting any help from the smaller school. I ended up getting onto the Dean's list one semester at the big university, and it was just as challenging as the liberal-arts college I had attended previously.

You don't need to go to an Ivy to get a good education, tbh. And not everyone absolutely needs to be at a tiny school and get individualized attention--sometimes that doesn't actually help.

Or maybe I just adapt easily to things, lol.
brbsb 2nd-Apr-2013 03:08 pm (UTC)
I did the same sort of thing. I went to a crazy expensive liberal arts college my freshman year and transferred to a big state university my sophomore year because I was very unhappy at the liberal arts school. The classes were equally as difficult or more difficult at the state university. Plus, we were allowed to take as many classes as we wanted, whereas at the lib arts school, we were limited to 4 each semester.
aviv_b 2nd-Apr-2013 02:19 pm (UTC)
Gawker conveniently left the last paragraph off:

"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."

I think this was meant to be a satire, (not a very good one), but she is clearly taking the piss out of herself here.
ntensity 2nd-Apr-2013 02:46 pm (UTC)
Hmmm, interesting. Thanks for posting. I'd like to read the whole article now (when I get home from work and have time haha) because I'm intrigued.
I wonder if the comments at the Wall Street Journal are considering this satire as well?
velvetunicorn 2nd-Apr-2013 02:21 pm (UTC)
She just seems like she'd be an awful person to hang around. I also don't buy that "just be yourself" was the only advice she received in high school. We were always having some kind of prep class or info session about career and college options. Although I've never understood the purpose of SATS I've watched enough US tv to know their importance. Also, if she was really set on going to her first choice school wouldn't she have done a bit of research to see what it takes to get in?

Also, how did she get published she seems so unmotivated. Perhaps it was her sister's connections? Nepotism at its finest.
darsynia 2nd-Apr-2013 02:50 pm (UTC)
On behalf of Pittsburghers whose kids will hopefully turn out nothing like this brat, I'm so sorry :(

THIS is what the Pittsburgh Promise* leads to? UGH. Edit: TAYLOR ALDERDICE! Suddenly it makes a lot more sense.

*Simplistic explanation for the link phobic: a scholarship to every student in the district who graduates high school
nextdrinksonme 2nd-Apr-2013 03:15 pm (UTC)
I don't think the Pittsburgh Promise is to blame. I graduated high school in FL and they use the lottery proceeds to give every student who graduates high school in FL scholarships for in-state schools. There are requirements to get certain percentages (like, I had 75% because I had good grades but no extra curricular activities/volunteer work), but I think that, even if you had mediocre grades, you got *something*. It didn't get you automatically accepted anywhere, just gave you some funding once you did get accepted like the PP does, to encourage you to stay in the state.


OT Edit--and yay! Your icon is my fave building!

Edited at 2013-04-02 03:15 pm (UTC)
shipperx 2nd-Apr-2013 03:16 pm (UTC)
Colleges tell you, "Just be yourself."

Admittedly I'm 'old' now and applying to college was 20 years ago. Still, back in the dark 80s, "Just be yourself" translated to: good grades, good SAT score, a good roster of extracurricular activities (or a job. I doubt anyone was ever docked points for having the responsibility of a JOB), and a thoughtful essay and/or interview.

So what she's ranting about is that those are STILL the rudimentary requirements?

Okey-dokey then.

Edited at 2013-04-02 03:39 pm (UTC)
frelling_tralk 2nd-Apr-2013 03:56 pm (UTC)
Yep,I don't think any school or college hasn't advised that good grades and extracurricular activities are also kind of essential, as well as giving the "just be yourself" advise
evildevil 2nd-Apr-2013 04:20 pm (UTC)
ah yes, the next generation of hateful, racist, dumb, idiotic, entitled, and young conservatives soon to replace the old generation.
ahestele 2nd-Apr-2013 04:46 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a brat.
bananainpyjamas 2nd-Apr-2013 04:54 pm (UTC)
I'm boggled that the comments on WSJ are so positive. So much damn resentment over minorities "stealing" the spots of nice white kids. The standards for admission into an elite university aren't exactly new or a secret (to this crowd), so they have no excuse for not busting their ass and meeting them.

And geez, if you REALLY want a degree for one of the uber-elites, then become an overachiever as an undergrad and get a graduate degree from your dream school. I got rejected from my top choice in undergrad but then had my pick of PhD programs. It's doable, but you have to decide to work for it rather than expect it to be handed to you just because you're so inherently awesome (or something? I'm not even sure what her argument is).
nikoel 2nd-Apr-2013 05:30 pm (UTC)
I would be boggled too if it were any publication *but* the WSJ.
anolinde 2nd-Apr-2013 05:13 pm (UTC)
Lol, I can understand where she's coming from - there's a TON of pressure to be involved in as many extracurriculars as possible, bonus points if you volunteer 40 hours a week at a soup kitchen or whatever, and those essays about ~life-changing~ trips to Africa are actually things people do - but she's definitely going about it the wrong way. I understand being frustrated because it seems like high school students aren't allowed to have free time, or just sit at home and read or w/e, if they want to get into a good school, but attacking other people who are in the same boat as her is nagl.
astridmyrna 2nd-Apr-2013 05:30 pm (UTC)
Sour grapes, sour grapes. In high school I was in anime club for four years, French club for two years, and started and was president of a creative writing club for two years (which I named The Tall Tales Club because I was so witty d'oh ho ho). I submitted and had stories accepted in my hs's annual literary magazine. I only took one AP English class and that was in my senior year, but since I didn't take the test I didn't get AP credit for it. I wrote novels in my free time, though I didn't publish any. My SATs were average. My favorite English teacher helped me write my personal statement which, shocker of shockers, focused on my writing. I still managed to get into 4 out of the 5 schools I applied to, the majority of which were UC schools, UCI the one I wanted to be in most and got in, but went to CSULB with the intent on transferring (but never did) because it was cheaper.

"Be yourself" does not mean "be lazy." There was a girl in my grade who did a hell of a lot of club work and volunteer work because she had a lot of energy and wanted to do it, and she's honestly one of the nicest people I've known and deserves everything she got.

Edited at 2013-04-02 05:33 pm (UTC)
angry_chick 3rd-Apr-2013 04:47 am (UTC)
Exactly. Be Yourself, in college terms, means do what you're able to do and you better be the fucking best at it.
louisiane_fille 2nd-Apr-2013 05:39 pm (UTC)
What a self-entitled little brat.
keestone 2nd-Apr-2013 05:43 pm (UTC)
Wow. I was almost hoping for her sake that she'd at least published this embarrassing screed under a pen name so this wouldn't come up in quick name searches done by potential employers, but she's really into just being herself isn't she?

Too bad for her she's a horrible person.
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