On Rejection: "I Was Suzy Weiss"

Last month, high school senior Suzy Weiss penned an op ed piece about getting rejected from the Ivies for the Wall Street Journal. The piece attracted national attention and landed her an interview on the Today Show. Wow Writing Workshop CEO Susan Knoppow understood what Ms. Weiss was going through; she wrote this blog.

Dear Suzy,

I feel your pain. In 1985, Brown University told me no.

To be honest, I blamed Amy Carter.

So what if she was the former president’s daughter? I was certain Amy had snagged my spot. She could have gone to college anywhere. I belonged at Brown. I didn’t get into Yale either, but I wasn’t mad at Paul Giamatti or Mira Sorvino; I hadn’t heard of them yet.

I was destined for Rhode Island. I had no doubts. How could Brown say no to me?

I was co-valedictorian at my high school, first chair clarinet, concertmaster of the symphony band, drum major, National Honor Society member and geometry tutor. A friend and I brought flowers on Friday afternoons to residents of a nursing home. I had a real job in the summer. I was a good citizen.

I did everything a high-performing student could in the 1980s, long before the Common App was a big deal; long before the University of Michigan had more qualified applicants than it could handle; long before parents hired people like me to teach their children how to write their personal statements. If I recall correctly, I composed my essays in pen sitting at my desk one evening in early fall. I have no recollection of what I wrote. I am sure it was pithy and eloquent. I got A’s in English. My teachers all told me I was a strong writer.

Still, Brown, Yale and Harvard all said no.

Fortunately, the University of Michigan said yes. When I got the news, I cried to my parents. I ranted and raved. Michigan was my safety school. I thought I deserved more.

Suzy, my SAT score was higher than yours. My ACT was nothing to sneeze at either. I was the kid who got nearly everything she wanted – class rank, awards, you name it. If I tried for it, I made it. Except for a couple of student government contests, I was golden.

Much to my surprise, Brown’s rejection letter was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I loved Michigan, and I found my place there.

Over the last few weeks, our students have been hearing from their dream schools. Many have received acceptance letters from the same universities that rejected you and me; many have been told no. I see no patterns in the acceptances and rejections. They are smart, interesting, well-rounded young women and men. Some are budding scientists; others excel in the arts. I have no doubt they will make great adults.

I don’t know you, but I suspect you’ll succeed too.

One day I think you’ll realize that all those Ivies may have done you a favor. We all face rejection at some point. We all get told no. You heard it now, while you’re still young. At least you will know how to handle it. I am certain you’ll be just fine.

I hear you were accepted to U of M too. If you say yes to Michigan, give me a call once you get settled in the fall. We can meet for frozen yogurt at Stucchi’s. My treat. Maybe you’ll make a habit of soup and ice cream for lunch like I did back when the store was new.

Whatever you decide, let me know how it goes.


Susan Knoppow is CEO of Wow Writing Workshop, which teaches a 10-step online college application essay writing process through Wow Online – College Essay. Read our blogs and get useful tips about the college essay, scholarships and the college admissions process by signing up for Wow’s weekly newsletter; Wow is also on Facebook and Twitter.