To All the Colleges Suzy Lee Weiss Rejected

You’ve undoubtedly heard by now about Suzy Lee Weiss, the young woman who wrote To All the Colleges That Rejected Me in the Wall Street Journal. The privileged Ms. Weiss, it seems, felt bruised and battered by the college admissions process.  Or did she?  She’s now suggesting that her article was intended as satire; indeed most people who cite it never make it to the last paragraph, in which she attempts to show that she’s just another spoiled, vapid teenager while attempting to satirize other spoiled, vapid teenagers.

Don’t worry, Suzy, Greater writers than you have had their attempts at satire misunderstood.

The reactions have come from all corners: Those who got it and complained; those who got it and applauded; those who didn’t get it and complained; and, most troubling, of course, those who didn’t get it and liked it.  If you’d like to see the full gamut of reaction, head over to College Confidential and browse the 49 pages of comments.  Or, just consider the words of former HuffPo intern Hannah Orenstein, who, acting WAY older and wiser than her presumed young age would suggest writes: “I understand that your piece was meant as satire, but it comes off as entitled and rude. No one will hand you a list of hobbies or an Ivy League acceptance letter on a platter… or anything else, for that matter. You might as well learn that lesson now or college — wherever you choose to go — will be a rude awakening. “

Easy to say for someone who doesn’t even GO to an Ivy.

Amid the noise, you all might have missed the uber-point: Why does any of this matter?  Whence comes this obsession?

Part of it, of course, is what I’ve written about before: College Admissions and the Kardashian Effect, where the process of applying to, and being accepted by the right colleges has become more important than what comes after a student enrolls.  It’s the education, stupid.  Or it should be, except we, like the Kardashians, spend more time and attention on the plans for the wedding, it seems, than on the marriage that results from it.

In some sense, I get it.  Groucho Marx once said that he wouldn’t belong to any club that would have him as a member, and it seems to be true for Ms. Weiss as well.  Based on what we know about her GPA and test scores and parental affluence, I’m guessing she would have been a shoe-in at almost all of the  more than 4,000 colleges she chose not to apply to.  Some of these colleges are probably sad, and should write a letter to her, asking her to think about choosing one of them.

Oh, wait.  They probably did. One way or another. She rejected thousands–yes, thousands–of colleges that would have loved to have her, and where she probably could have thrived and become a better writer, with a deeper appreciation about how to do satire.  And to all those colleges, I offer condolences and congratulations. I won’t name names; you know who you are.

But as is my obsession (yours, Suzy, is getting into college; mine is data visualization), I looked at 2011 IPEDS data, to see if, and how, misplaced your and our national obsession is with these name brand college.  This is what I came up with.  The image below is just a screenshot.  If you want to go to the interactive visualization, click  here.

ScreenHunter_01 Apr. 06 11.27

What you’ll see is about 1600 four-year, public and private degree-granting institutions in the US broken out by 2011 freshman admission rate.  At the far left is the 15–yes, 15–colleges that admitted less than 12.5% of freshman applicants in 2011.  Then, selectivity is broken out in bands increasing by 12.5% increments, all the way up to (gasp) 100%.

The subsequent charts show the total number of freshman applications the colleges in those bands received, how many students they enroll, what percent of the universe shown (which is not every college, of course) and then a running percentage. This is, then, what we choose to get hysterical over: 1%  of institutions, enrolling less than 1% of all undergraduates.

I’m not stupid.  I get it.  The students enrolled at these places are considered to be the best, brightest, and most motivated.  They also happen to be the wealthiest.

So, to all the colleges Suzy Lee Weiss rejected, don’t feel bad.  Perhaps some day you too will be able to lower your admission rate to the point that the Suzy Lees of the world will pursue you. Until then, hang in there.  I hear that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled.  You’ll survive.

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