Salah: Ivy league admissions process unfair

Salah argues that college admissions should focus less on diversity and appreciate students who handle manageable expectations.

Like so many other people, my absolute favorite part of my high school experience was the process of applying to universities. Who didn’t love Hend Salahthe stress of sending out transcripts and checking the mail 100 times, hoping to get into that dream program? And of course any received rejection was such a helpful motivator to just try harder. Suzy Lee Weiss, a high school student from Pittsburgh, shares all about it.

After being rejected from Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt and Yale, Weiss wrote an article attacking the college admissions process, which she claimed was only meant to be satirical. She made fun of the fact that most colleges look for diversity, and she doesn’t have much of that to slap on her application.

Some of what she wrote, including, “I would have gladly worn a headdress to school” and “Sen. Elizabeth Warren, I salute you and your 1/32 Cherokee heritage,” have even led to claims of racism.

But I think it’s racist in itself to care about where a person is from, the color of his or her skin or sexual orientation during the admissions process. We’re all supposed to be the same, and our any difference in regards to diversity shouldn’t even be a factor in the admissions process.

Personally, I don’t think the article should have been a big deal. This is just a privileged high school student whining about not making it into the Ivy League. How sad for her. Not that she’s wrong.

Most college admissions boards are looking for well-rounded individuals. They want kids who are running around starting clubs and doing community service while maintaining astronomical grades in school and on standardized tests. Screw having a social life. This is more important.

One of my cousins got accepted into Yale last year. I have literally never met someone so ridiculously smart, and she really deserved to get in. I watched her have nervous breakdowns waiting for her SAT scores, lose many nights of sleep due to studying and exhaust herself doing community service work. We barely saw her during the second half of her high school career. She had gone through hell by the time she got a letter in the mail, and it didn’t even say she was accepted. She was waitlisted.

I actually got to enjoy my teenage years. I made it out of high school with a pretty decent GPA, but my SAT scores were definitely not good enough to get me into an Ivy League school. If I was on an Ivy League admissions board I probably wouldn’t accept someone with the same qualifications as me. I’d done community service, started clubs and tutored, but none of that means that I deserve entry into prestigious schools just because I was active while I was a teenager. So I ended up a Temple. Not bad, right?

But for those who are determined not to settle for anything but the top programs, hard work is hardly enough. Not when other applicants – typically the wealthiest – are given such a huge advantage through methods like higher acceptance rates for legacies. According to a 2004 report, “Admission Preferences for Minority Students, Athletes, and Legacies at Elite Universities,” conducted by professors at Princeton, of course, being the child of an alumnus is roughly the equivalent of adding 160 points to the combined Verbal and Quantitative sections.

My real issue is that of all struggling high school students, this young woman was the one who got so much attention. This article didn’t deserve to blow up the way it did, especially when there are millions of other students with real stories. There are loads of kids who applied to their dream schools as well, many of them smart and hard-working individuals who deserved entry, only to be turned away unfairly because of some miniscule reason or other. Weiss got into four other good schools. Others are deserving of good placement, but miss out because of ridiculous priorities and unfair practices.

So to the dear admissions process, Weiss is not alone. I kind of hate you too.

Hend Salah can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. She is wrong. The demand for Ivy League diplomas is far greater than the available supply in this case.

    A few million students from all over the world want to get into Ivy League programs, hundreds of thousands apply. They can’t all get in.

    Schools have to split hairs somehow when sorting students of Ivy League caliber and you can disagree with how they do it now, but no matter how they change things, students will dissent and say it’s “not fair”. Can you imagine if they made admissions strictly quantitative? “What, I need a perfect standardized test score and a GPA above 4.0?””I’m not a robot!” Someone will always feel left out.

    Suzy Lee Weiss comes off as both ignorant and arrogant, which only validates her rejection from the prestigious programs she applied to. She only picks on legacy students with her lazy argument, who according to the report (2004) cited in the article, receive less preference than athletes, African-Americans, and Hispanics when it comes to SAT scores.

    Also according to the article, her chance of being accepted as a female was 50% greater than that of an academically comparable man. It’s as if somehow she’s immune to the preferential treatment, just because it didn’t serve her interests in this case.

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