TODAY   |  April 04, 2013

Rejected high school senior: Colleges lied to me

When high school senior Suzy Lee Weiss was rejected from four prestigious colleges, she fired back in a controversial op-ed piece published in the Wall Street Journal, claiming colleges are lying when they say “just be yourself.” She tells TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie about the article, insisting it was “satire” but saying applicants are “being judged on things we cannot control.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now at 8:11 with a high school senior who has a lot of people talking about what it takes to get into college. we will speak with her in a moment. but first, her story.

>> in an op-ed in the " wall street journal ," susie voiced her disappointment. she writes, colleges tell you just be yourself. that is great advice as long as yourself has nine extracurriculars, six leadership positions, three varsity sports , killer s.a.t. scores and two moms. susie weiss appeared perfect for the ivy league . an impressive 4.5 gpa, excellent s.a.t. scores, plus a stint at the u.s. senate page. still, she was rejected by princeton, yale, penn and vanderbilt. among the reasons she says she was rejected, quote, diversity. i offer about as much diversity as a saltine cracker . she writes, i also probably should've started a fake charity collecting donations for the underprivileged chimpanzees of the congo. she even blamed her parents. i've never sat down at a piano, never plucked a violin. still, the competition is steep. princeton accepted only 7% of its over 26,000 applicants this year.

>> just because you're an "a" student and have great test scores doesn't mean you're eligible for an ivy league school.

>> some call susie a truthteller. others say she's entitled.

>> to those of you disgusted by this, shocked i take for granted the wonderful gift i've been afforded, i say, shh, "the real housewives" is on.

>> and susie is joining us this morning.

>> good morning.

>> that's one way to blow off a little steam in an op-ed in the " wall street journal ."

>> thank you so much for having me, by the way, and thank you to the " wall street journal " for printing my piece.

>> what were you hoping to accomplish?

>> it's a funny story, actually. the piece was written. i got rejected from a bunch of school in one day. and like any teenager. i'm sure millions of teenagers i was crying to my mom. and she was like, i can't hear about this anymore, go talk to someone else. so i called my sister. i was crying and she was hysterically laughing. she said go write this down. and i did and this is what came out of it.

>> it's funny. you have a sharp tongue and a sharp pen. to others, it sounded cynical. and you acknowledge in the piece, you sound a little bitter. are you?

>> am i bitter? well, i don't know, i poured my whole life for like the past five years into these college applications. and, yeah, i was attracted to the sexy ivy league name. but i think the overall point is that anyone can relate to this. it doesn't matter what your dream school is. and all the feedback i've gotten from kids my age is only positive.

>> they're saying -- you're speaking the truth.

>> yeah.

>> let me point out a couple of things that popped off the page to me. you wrote, had i known two years ago what i known now, i would have gladly worn a head dress to the school, show me to any closet and i would have happily come out of it. i should have gone to africa, scoop up a suffering child, take a few pictures and write how spending the afternoon changed my life. some people say you are being very cavalier about the importance of diversity.

>> let's see. i make fun of two moms, having killer s.a.t. scores, the diversity -- it's a satire. that's the point. just like 30 rock is a satire which pokes fun at things that are politically correct. that's what i was trying to do. diversity i think is a wonderful thing. i think it's great. i think all colleges should have a wholistic approach to every college applicant. i do, however, think in this day in age we're being judged on things we cannot control as opposed to things we can.

>> do you think some students who do this volunteer work during high school are insincere or have dual motives?

>> i think some of them are. i don't begrudge people who do volunteer work . and i've done a ton of volunteer work . but i think there's a lot of resume padding going on right now just to get into these amazing schools.

>> what has the response been? i know you've been accepted to schools, but have you heard from schools because of this op-ed?

>> i have. the response has been positive. i've gotten job offers, internship offers, i'm on the "today" show, it's crazy.

>> we asked our viewers what they thought. 53% said it's a whiney one-woman pity party. 30% said it accurately captures what college admission officers expect these days and 17% weren't sure if they should take it seriously or be appalled by it.

>> what do you think of the 53% that say you're blaming others.

>> did you call my grandparents?

>> where would they come down?

>> i think they would support me. but in response to that, it was a satire piece. everyone my age, whether they wanted to get into penn state their whole lives or harvard is agreeing with me that it's just a rat race now. and it's such a business model as opposed to who's most qualified should get in. and i understand that.

>> you got into great schools.

>> i did. is schools in the big ten, university of michigan , penn state and wisconsin all of which i'm ecstatic about. i couldn't be more happy.

>> have you decided where you're going to go?

>> i have not decided. but go blue. i haven't decided.

>> all right. good luck to you.

>> thank you so much for having me.