Note: this is just one person’s opinion! What do you think of Suzy’s op-ed? Do you agree or disagree with the following statements? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

If you have had not the unfortunate experience of reading this awful op-ed from Suzy Lee Weiss, a senior at Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, you might want to do that before I rip this ‘article’ (should this even be considered a piece of journalism?) to shreds. I would first like to applaud the Wall Street Journal for finding a way to boost its views in the dying journalism industry by publishing an obviously offensive and faulty article.

During the three minutes I wasted reading this piece, a word continuously screamed and shouted in my head: privilege. Not knowing anything about this girl, I immediately thought of her as being a white, straight, wealthy girl who is just whining, whining, whining. It turns out my guess was not that bad. According to PolicyMic.com, Suzy “lives in a $700,000 home and attend[s] a national blue ribbon school in Pennsylvania.”

She has stated in an interview that this article was support to be funny; however, I do not find it funny at all (trust me, I tried really really hard to find the humor). Despite the fact that many other critics of the article articulated what was wrong (and by ‘what was wrong’, I mean the entire article is wrong), I decided to rip it up myself, piece by piece, to show how you should view the college admissions process through a healthier and non-offensive scope:

1. “Just be yourself.” 

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.

This elementary high schooler’s rant starts off with the notion that colleges have lied to students “for years” about the notion of “just being yourself” on your college applications. Suzy’s logic seems to be if you are ‘yourself like the college admissions officers’ say, you should be able to get into a particular college. If you don’t get into a college and you were ‘yourself’, then the college lied to you. Wait, what? I wonder if she has ever applied to a part-time job because if you think the college admission’s office (or the world) will hand you a cookie and an acceptance letter for ‘being yourself’, then you have a much larger issue of how you perceive the world. 

Colleges do not lie when they say they want you to “just be yourself”. What they are honestly trying to say is do not lie and more specifically, do not do an activity or a class for the sake of getting into college. Who cares if you are “the slowest person on the cross-country team” if you enjoy running and the company of your teammates? Colleges love hearing about your hobbies. Little does she know, some people don’t live in $700,000 homes and have to work each summer (i.e. me) at minimum wage jobs and still find ways to “be themselves”. During my Swarthmore interview, I talked about my awesome experiences working at Subway, and it was such a fun and interesting discussion that I talked to my interviewer until the admissions office had to close. That’s being true to yourself.

2. Diversity

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.

In short, this paragraph marginalizes the struggles of ethnic groups and LGBTQ students. Suzy, you don’t understand the cultural significance of why that person wears a headdress to school or the difficulties for those to come out of the closet to their loved ones. What this paragraph showed is your limited understanding of what diversity means.

Diversity is not limited to just the number of ethnic groups you have on campus. It includes the wide variety or ideologies, perspectives, backgrounds and all other aspects of life that you can contribute to a college. A school wants a diverse community in order to provide an environment that fosters a space where ideas and philosophies can be exchanged with one another. You can check off an ethnic box on the Common Application, but how do you prove your ‘diversity’? You do so through your essays and interview, explaining your thoughts, ideas, or background if you think they speak to the type of person you are. Remember, be true to yourself and really reflect on the experiences you have had so far.

3. It’s OK to Be Bitter

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 sayshhhh—”The Real Housewives” is on.

In the end, I understand what Suzy Lee Weiss is bitter about. She is upset with the seeming nontransparent system of admissions. Look, I get it but no one said it was transparent. If you want that, look at the UK system or Chinese university system; they offer places based on test scores. It is a very systematic approach to admitting students, and while this system is seemingly more transparent, it is still not a fair process.

The American college admissions system aims to be more holistic, taking into account all aspects of the applicant into the decision, and naturally it will be more unapparent about why some people are accepted. While Affirmative Action and other admissions policies seem to designate certain candidates to be more likely to be accepted, the system’s overall “fairness” is still widely debated.

So here’s the sad fact, Suzy. Your Op-Ed reveals how untrue to yourself you are and even if you were completely “yourself”, that doesn’t guarantee you admission into college. Not to mention, it seems like you completely neglect other great schools and focus on the “brand name” aspects of a college. Just like jobs, even if you have great credentials, it does not mean you’re a guaranteed shoe-in. This is probably why you were rejected from all your Ivies, therefore reaffirming the college’s correct decision to reject you.



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the author

Steven Gu is currently a junior at Swarthmore College. While he is not spending his time thinking of new ways to interpret college admissions today in the United States, he is working on his Urban Studies (of which no department exists at Swarthmore) and Political Science majors. He is also a part of the Swarthmore Student Admissions Committee, Housing Committee, and a Student Academic Mentor. In addition, he enjoys pretending that he can actually dance, short films, and eating inane amounts of food.

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  1. Amanda Cross on April 6, 2013

    I thought this was a super well put together arguement against this article. I read this on Friday because I follow Today and they linked to the article and I was rather peeved by the article, especially the diversity part. It is as if she is putting diversity into a square box only to be seen as an admission tool. Diversity is not a tool to be used to get into college, it is lived and many people who are “diverse” may not even go to a big name college or a community college for that matter. Any one can play to their strengths as a human being and create great essays for college admission.

  2. Hugo on April 6, 2013

    Oh, man!

    I think you all wrote about the story in nicer terms than I would have. ‘Privilege’ is dripping throughout every facet of the paragraph. I love parody, I love satire, but it takes a special kind of wit to write satire that doesn’t come off as plain insulting.

    And this girl doesn’t quite get there. I mean, I can see what she was trying to do, but it doesn’t come out the way she intended it to.

    I’m Mexican, but I’ve never been the recipient of affirmative action, everywhere I’ve gone in life, I’ve made it because my resume is solid and because I am willing to work, not because I’m a certain color. Yeah, some schools do have affirmative action percentages they try to meet, but most schools worth their salt will seek out students that are a total package. Race, color, and sexual orientation is something you are born with.

    Hard work and hustle is something you have to learn.

    Spot on article, guys!

    • Steven Gu Author on April 7, 2013

      Hey Hugo, thanks for sharing your experience and opinion!

      You should know that I definitely had to go back and couple times to make it nicer because of how much her op-ed was written from a very privileged standpoint. I definitely agree with your comment about “hard work and hustle” as the mantra people should put into each activity they do.

  3. Laurie on April 7, 2013

    This is a far more rational response to Weiss’s rant than she deserves! Three days after reading the op-ed, I’m still fuming that the WSJ would print such crap. She now claims it was meant as satire, and I might see her point if the writing had been remotely humorous, insightful, or witty. But it’s just a bitter screed written by a brat. No amount of “just kidding” will change that.

    There is a silver lining to this because folks like yourself are pushing back against the myth that getting into many colleges is simply a matter of putting on a hajib or coming out of the closet. I suggest Miss Weiss try doing both, and get a minimum wage job while she’s at it. When she encounters severe prejudice as a result of her actions, not to mention a back ache from finally doing something called work, she might finally take a step towards developing the strength of character that her dream colleges are looking for.

    Again, this is outstanding. Thank you!

    • Steven Gu Author on April 11, 2013

      Hey Laurie, I just want to say your comment is absolutely spectacular! And trust me, the first draft of this article was a lot sharper than the one presented now. Thanks again for your thoughts!

  4. Chelsea on April 15, 2013

    Hey Steven- Taylor Alderdice is a city school in Pittsburgh. While it is a decent school, it is certainly not full of privileged white people. I live in the city of Pittsburgh, I know. It is actually a very diverse environment, where some students come from upper middle class white families and many others live in the roughest neighborhood in Pittsburgh. While I don’t agree with a lot of what Suzy says, lets try to leave Pittsburgh and Alderdice out of this.

    • Steven Gu Author on April 15, 2013

      Hey Chelsea, thanks for the additional information! I was just going off what PolicyMic.com stated about the school’s overall recognition. Of course, a person’s school is just one of the aspects that makes up a person’s background and by no means was I trying to generalize that everyone from the high school (or the city for that matter) is exactly like Suzy.

  5. Chelsea on April 15, 2013

    No worries- Suzy is the one making us look bad, not you!

    • Lily Herman on April 15, 2013

      Hey Chelsea!

      Thank you so much for your insight as a Pittsburgh resident. We really appreciate it!

  6. Carlton Smith on September 17, 2013

    THIS IS FANTASTIC

  7. Pingback: The Suzy Lee Weiss Mindset: how not to approach college admissions | The Monty Sponge 24 Feb, 2015

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