College Admissions: Why “Just Being Yourself” Isn’t Enough

By Joseph Rendeiro, Communications Department, NCLR

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Rejection is never fun.  With age and maturity, it becomes easier to deal with rejection gracefully.  But high school seniors, who’ve just been denied from their first choice college and have a flair for dramatics, aren’t exactly known for their grace.  For many of them, it becomes a blame-game.

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This weekend, the Wall Street Journal ran a controversial Op-Ed penned by high school senior, Suzy Lee Weiss, who laments that, like many of her peers, she has been ill-prepared for reality—that you simply don’t get to go to whatever school you want to by “just being yourself.”  Latent entitlement is woven throughout the editorial as she does a half-hearted job of accepting her own responsibility for her failure, while belittling the success of those who showed actual motivation and faulting her parents for not pushing her harder.

And then, of course, there’s the problem that she was not born a minority—that she never had to “wear a headdress to school” or “come out of any closets.”  Because clearly, children who come from communities of color or who are LGBT have been given such a great lot in life.  Let’s forget about the large wealth and education gaps that exist between white communities and communities of color.  Let’s disregard the fact that many of these students who come from poor communities are not given the same opportunities to participate in myriad extracurricular activities or take AP courses—opportunities that Ms. Weiss apparently chose to eschew for four years.  And, let’s overlook the violence and bullying that plagues LGBT students in schools across the nation.  Obviously, it is only their token diversity that has gotten them into the colleges of their choice.  Everybody should be so lucky to have such an advantage.

The admissions game is not an easy one.  Universities, especially top tier universities, are more demanding than ever, requiring well-rounded applicants who are intelligent, involved and possess a demonstrable work ethic.  Despite what the author says, they make no attempt to hide that.  That’s why it is so important for high school students to take advantage of the opportunities that are provided to them.  The “rat-race,” as Weiss puts it, is stiff, and many students who come from communities of color are already at a disadvantage.  And those disadvantages can make it twice as difficult for them to even get into the second-tier universities Weiss so callously dismisses.  Simply put: for Weiss to get to the “finish line” last and then complain that she was “never told rules” is a complete cop-out.

Here’s a dose of reality for this author—your parents and your friends may love you for “just being yourself,” but that isn’t going to get you too far in the real world.  If you want to get into get into your first choice college or get hired at your dream job, you’ll have to put in the work, like everybody else, whether you are black, white, Hispanic, Native American, gay, lesbian, etc.  And instead of feigning self reflection while criticizing the qualifications of everybody who succeeds, quit complaining and fix your mistake.

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