Tough break, kid.
The letter arrived on Friday informing you that you did not get accepted to Yale, Harvard, or Duke, or whatever school you dreamed of attending.
Like Suzy Lee Weiss, who wrote a letter in the Wall Street Journal to all of the colleges that rejected her, you are realising that “being yourself” was not an effective way to get ahead, especially if yourself is a median American. Indeed, that may have been the worst advice you ever received.
An ex-Dartmouth admissions officer we spoke to in the fall put it bluntly:
“Not standing out is a big mistake for kids who are from demographic groups that are historically well-represented.”
Dartmouth (at least until recently) rates applicants out of 10 for academic qualities and personal qualities, which take into account things like socio-economic background.
A poor black kid who scores a 7 academically would also get a high personal score for outperforming his peers. For a wealthy white kid from the suburbs, however, a 7 for academics “might not mean much in their personal context.”
“You want to find a kid who stands out given what they’ve been given,” our source says.
Affluent white kids do need to start charities, edit newspapers, get internships, or do the various other things that Weiss mocks in her letter to the Journal. What’s more, they have to know how to present these extracurriculars in a meaningful way.
“The essay is very important,” our source says. “It’s when you get a sense of what the kids about. We’re looking for creativity, self-awareness. The biggest mistake is when they aren’t very self-aware and write standard sports essay where they talk about the big game and that hurts them in the end.”
Asians may have trouble standing out too, with so many tiger cubs excelling in high school.
“When reading recommendations [for Asian kids] you see these words—’diligent,’ ‘hardworking’ … you rarely see ‘creative’ or ‘strong intellectual bent,’ and they are less likely to be seen as ‘freethinking,'” our source says.
Applicants need to understand how they fit into the admissions officer’s rubric and how they can stand out.
They need to play the college game harder and smarter and for longer.
They need to break free of the quaint American viewpoint that all children are special and should be free to develop in their own special way.
If you understood all of this 10 years ago, then you probably could have got into your dream school. But don’t worry, kid, it’s still possible to get ahead in life if you learn this lesson now. Start planning for your career. We suggest majoring in engineering.
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