Opinion | Adversity and the College Admissions Process

To the Editor:

Re “I Didn’t Want to ‘Sell My Pain’” (Opinion guest essay, May 10):

I appreciated Elijah Megginson’s article, and I agree wholeheartedly that we do a disservice to college applicants when we signal that overcoming adversity is the only way to distinguish oneself in the college admission process.

Resilience is an important characteristic for future college students. But even more important factors for colleges to consider are how applicants approach learning, what they see as the purpose of their education, how they investigate their intellectual interests, and how they react when their assumptions are challenged.

Too many students worry that if they have not faced major adversity in their young lives, they don’t have a college essay topic. Is this really the message we want to send to our future scholars and leaders?

I’m coming to the end of a nearly 40-year career in college admission, the last 21 years at Smith College, a nationally selective women’s college that is known for a socioeconomically diverse student body. I have read thousands of essays. Those that I remember best are not the essays that reflect the greatest hardship or the most pain, but those that show the ability to make meaning from everyday situations, demonstrate a sense of humor, reflect a commitment to the community and, most of all, demonstrate the joy the student finds in learning.

Audrey Smith
Northampton, Mass.

Raising Money for Vaccines: Looking at You, Jeff Bezos

To the Editor:

“What Would It Take to Vaccinate the Whole World? Still Quite a Lot” (news article, May 4) states that wealthy nations have pledged at least $6 billion to Covax, the global effort to supply Covid vaccines worldwide, although some pledges have not been fulfilled, and much greater funding is needed.

So I have a question for Jeff Bezos, whose net worth now stands at about $200 billion. What would you experience in terms of worldwide gratitude if you decided to fund the universal availability of Covid vaccines? And how much happiness would it bring you? Who knows, perhaps even ambivalent customers like me might develop warmer feelings toward Amazon.

Alternatively, or in addition, I wonder how much money could be raised by some sort of national GoFundMe campaign to support Covax? Billions? And how much good will toward the United States might that generate?

James L. Culnan
La Crescenta, Calif.

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