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Opinion piece on Ivy League admissions lands Allderdice student in national spotlight

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 12:09 a.m.
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Suzy Weiss, 17, of Squirrel Hill is a Allderdice High School senior who created a furor with an op-ed piece she wrote for the Wall Street Journal about not being accepted into some colleges because of political correctness. She says the article was written tongue-in-cheek.

Suzy Weiss said she was just kidding.

Disappointed about being rejected by some prestigious colleges to which she applied, the Allderdice High School senior wrote an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal on March 29 in which she said colleges lie when they tell students, “Just be yourself.”

Weiss' piece, “To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me,” has drawn supporters who say the college admissions process is flawed and detractors who call Weiss spoiled.

It elicited more than 1,040 comments on The Wall Street Journal's website.

Appearing on “The Today Show” on Thursday morning, the 17-year-old Squirrel Hill resident said the piece was satirical.

“It's a satire. That's the point,” she said on the show.

Weiss has a 4.5 grade point average and scored 2120 out of 2400 on her SATs. She is a member of the cross-country team and served as a U.S. Senate page.

Still, she was rejected by Princeton, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania — all Ivy League institutions — and Vanderbilt. She wrote that she was rejected because she did not offer enough diversity.

“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!” Weiss wrote in the op-ed. “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.”

Most people thought the piece was hilarious, she wrote on Thursday in an email.

“A few people just didn't get it,” said Weiss, who likely will attend the University of Michigan in the fall.

She said on “Today” that she did not object to colleges wanting diverse student bodies, but said institutions should take a holistic look at applicants' credentials.

“She has everything going for her,” said Weiss' guidance counselor, Ed Gelman, who said in some ways he agrees that the college admissions process has no rhyme or reason as to why some students are accepted and others rejected.

Allderdice graduates can be found at most of the eight Ivy League schools, but the most popular colleges for graduates are Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh, said Gelman, who said he tells students that good schools don't have to be elite schools.

“I still encourage them to go for it and to really put a lot of emphasis on solid essays, getting good, solid recommendations ... putting together a strong resumé, starting in the ninth grade.”

Acceptance rates at four-year colleges declined slightly from 69.6 percent of applications received in 2002 to 63.8 percent in 2011, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling in Arlington, Va.

At Ivy League colleges, the chances of acceptance are much slimmer.

Rachel Toor, an author and former admissions officer at Duke University, does private admissions counseling.

“I tell families I work with it doesn't matter where you go to college. What matters is what you do there,” said Toor, who graduated from Yale with a degree in English in 1984.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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