Admissions Problems

no, your kid isn't special at all actually...


Great day, right? Inside Higher Ed, the Daily Penn… we’re famous, you guys! Some of the tweets and inbox comments were not so loving today, but whatevs. We’re feeling just dandy.

If you didn’t hear about or read what happened, check it out:

Inside Higher Ed critcizes Admission Problems

Blah blah blah from the Daily Penn

Here’s the quickest synopsis: An admission counselor at UPenn put up excerpts from admission essays on her personal (and private!) Facebook page. Here’s some information about it from the article:

In the Facebook posts, Foley revealed intimate details about several applicants. After quoting from an essay by a student explaining his fear of relieving himself outdoors — which Foley described as “another gem” — she went on to say, “17-year-olds are strange creatures. [B]ut seriously, couldn’t make this up if [I] tried. [K]ids say the darndest things.” Foley also commented, “[S]top the madness” in response to one essay in which an applicant claimed to have a connection with Penn because he was circumcised there. The post had attracted 19 “likes” and over a dozen comments at the time of the screenshot.

Other screenshots show Foley describing a jar of organic honey she received from an applicant as one of the “perks of being an [admissions officer]” and recalling a conversation with a student who claimed Penn was close to the beach. “[P]enn being ‘close’ to the beach: a selling point [I] never expected to use. [G]otta love recruiting in [K]ansas!”

At this point, the admission counselor, Foley, is no longer employed at Penn. For a real treat, you should view the comments section of the Inside Higher Ed and the UPenn articles to read people publicly criticize and demean her. The level of hypocrisy is breathtaking.

So, of course, our inbox and Twitter account filled up with bits of support…and hate. It is inevitable, and we accept at this point that some people do not enjoy this blog. We’ll show you how nasty it got later tonight - let’s just say we won’t be walking down any dark alleys without a shiv, a bullhorn and eight bottles of pepper spray.

The conversation on ethics and college admission essays isn’t a new thing. Every NACAC and regional ACAC, people who think they are important sit around in a hotel conference room discussing this, realize it’s time for happy hour mid-discussion, and decide to table the discussion for the future. As you can tell, it’s a really big, pressing issue.

A couple of points to make:

1. One of the sources from the Daily Penn had this to say:

“Do admissions officers sit around the committee table and talk about the applications they read and some of the silly things they might come across? Of course,” added former Brown University admissions officer Jeffrey Durso-Finley, the director of college counseling at the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, N.J. “But these things shouldn’t become dinner party conversation. That’s where I think it crosses a line.”

Is that right, Jeffrey?

Funny that the heart of all the articles we’ve read today really say poking fun, in any means, is unethical. So, do you consider yourself unethical, Jeffrey? Do any of you who sit in a lunch room bantering about that stupid mom on a phone call feel unethical? What a weird juxaposition when we create arbitrary boundaries of what is right vs. wrong based on our own prejudices.

Isn’t it a little ridiculous to think we can sit around and giggle at those silly things internally, but people outside of admission offices can’t be privy to those laughable moments? How elitist you sound. What if we went home and shared stories with our spouses? Unethical? What if our spouses tweeted about it? Really unethical? We’re not in the fucking CIA, people. Let’s lighten the eff up.

Let’s say we’re at dinner at a restaurant with our entire office and started discussing a student’s funny essay. Do you tell the neighboring tables to plug their ears? Ask your staff to talk in whispers. Be like:


Isn’t this part of the problem? This “keep it all in the family” attitude really isn’t helping students nationwide - these kids all think they are writing wonderful essays. What would happen if we started laughing in their face a little bit when they asked if Penn was near the beach? Or when a kid writes his college essay about his circumcision and then we subsequently have to spend the next two hours post-traumatizing-essay with sporadic images of a circumcized penis dancing in our head?

We personally never signed anything that says (a) we can’t share excerpts from essays and (b) we can’t talk about essays. Ethics, schmethics. You can’t say it’s ok as long as we do it inside the admission office, but it’s not ok for the outside world. Again, that’s called HYPOCRISY.

2. Welcome to the world of the millennial. Where they can do no wrong and adults will swoop in to protect them at every turn.

“To see that something like that would be made public in some forum bothers me,” said Tim Lear, director of college counseling at The Pingry School in Martinsville, N.J. “Kids really put themselves out there in their applications, with the expectation that what they share is going to be kept private, and any breach of that is unfortunate.”

“If kids applying to a school like Penn think there’s a chance that this information could get disclosed publicly, then it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility for them to be less willing to write personal, revealing applications,” he said.

Please. PLEASE. For the love of God, if it means we get one less essay about poop, circumcisions, your first time having sex, or what your mom’s naked breasts looked like as you drank the milk of life from them until the age of 12, this is worth it.

With the number of stealth applicants we have today, we all know and recognize that we have never met the majority of our applicants. There really is no reason to write a college essay that borderlines on (or is completely) inappropriate for a complete stranger to read. If a kid chooses to disclose something really personal (to the point where they’d be embarrassed if it was shared), they shouldn’t be including it in a college essay. The essay doesn’t stay sealed in an airtight envelope all the way to your dear admission counselor’s desk, kids. It’s more than likely touched by at least a dozen or so people in this process. And if the office you applied to scans all their applications electronically, your application just became amusement for generations of student workers and admission counselors to come. Use some common sense.

3. We have a Twitter follower who wrote something earlier that really made us think:

The fact that we all enjoy taking little jabs at applicants, picking on those moments of sheer stupidity (at least in our eyes) and taking some solace and pleasure away from these jabs is a sign the process is broken.

We work at a thankless job with huge image expectation.


We couldn’t have said it better. Think of an admission counselor as the sole server in a huge restaurant - people screaming for things all the time, asking for a steak after you’ve already brought dessert…and then demanding you cook it well done in 30 seconds. And when it’s time to settle the check, almost everyone asks for a discount or just leaves without paying. And here we are, lonely little server, making next to nothing, single-handedly trying to save the reputation of our restaurant when we know you can choose from lots of other places to eat.

You’ve got our number. And we know it.

So, when a student writes a dumb essay, asks a stupid question, acts a fool while visiting campus or have parents that are surely made straight from hell, we’re supposed to just take it? With a smile? To save the face of the university?

What kind of profession are we creating? And how are we supporting our own professionals? Doesn’t sound like we’re doing much of either. And this is why it shouldn’t be surprising that this field has incredibly high turnover…. or has professionals that resort to a little public flogging of a kid that made our day hell. It’s difficult to sustain a positive, ethical attitude in the middle of all the negativity. We don’t know anyone in this field interested in being the next Mother Teresa. Most of us would just like to be able to get through a month where we don’t get called an “asshole” by an angry dad AND be able to pay all our bills on time.

4. As this phenonmenon of Admissions Problems grows, we understand what is also going on here: people are freaking out that we’re talking about essays period. You can go buy a book any day of the week off a shelf of “best” essays, but we’ve really cornered the market on the “what not to do”. And kids are finding INCREDIBLE value in the honest, direct approach.  

Oops. Guess all of you independent counselors charging thousands of dollars out there to sculpt the perfect essay are out of job! OH NO. How ever will you afford those new Tory Burch sandals you wanted for your summer trip to the Cape?! Sorry we’re not sorry.

You have to understand that students these days value HONESTY. When you tell a kid that his essay about circumcision is insightful and heartfelt, we’ll be here to tell him that is the dumbest effing thing we’ve ever heard of. Who do you think he’s really going to listen to? Who should he listen to? Hashtag, we’re the one making the admission decision over here…

BUT JUST FOR FUN - once a month (because we can’t stand that much positivity), we’ll start posting excerpts from BEST essays.


BOTTOM LINE: How do we move forward after this incident? Run scared? Stop talking about essays? Never poke fun at a single prospective student ever again?


Hire a lawyer, Nadirah, and go after them. One who is a Princeton undergrad to make it extra special. Admissions Problems has your back.

Hang in there.  

PS: For all you holier-than-thou private counselor type assholes quoted all day long in these articles (and commenting on them) about how admission counselors have no ethics and we should be fired/ashamed of ourselves/never allowed to work with students…

We received 182 new inbox messages today. 151 of them were questions from high school students about essays asking for advice. FROM US. SO FUUUUCCCCCKKKKK YOOOOOOUUUUUUU. Looks like no Cape for you, homie.

  1. aka-foreverjola reblogged this from admissionsproblems
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  7. thisisnotdanjohnston reblogged this from admissionsproblems and added:
    WHOA! Admissions Probs. threw it DOWN today.
  8. happyclappyland reblogged this from admissionsproblems and added:
    blow off steam by mocking...applicants. High stakes,
  9. maayangoestumbling reblogged this from admissionsproblems and added:
    That’s a measurable level of awesome. You go Admissions Problems. Use your social media for GOOD.
  10. carybbeancee reblogged this from admissionsproblems and added:
  11. herearetwoboops reblogged this from admissionsproblems and added:
    Fucking this! Please read the whole post because this was basically my shit today. I read drafts of essays from 26...
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  13. nicosan1 reblogged this from admissionsproblems and added:
    my heroes!
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