It’s not every day that a mainstream movie takes an inside look at the college admissions process, which is why we at College Prowler ventured out last weekend to see the new film Admission, starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd.
In fact, we attended a special screening of it with our friend Nancy Berk, whose College Prowler-endorsed book College Bound and Gagged has a special appearance in the film (our blurb is on the cover!). Check out a few photos from the event here.
The film is about a woman (Tina Fey) who discovers that the son she gave up for adoption nearly 20 years ago is an almost-genius who desperately wants to get into Princeton, the school for which she works as an admissions officer. There’s also a romantic element of the film involving a worldly dad/teacher/hunk played by Paul Rudd.
But what was especially interesting about the film is the way it portrays Ivy League admissions, with officers like Fey’s Portia Nathan slaving over prospective students’ portfolios and essays. As Portia reads the students’ personal statements, she envisions them standing in front of her, begging for admission. Then, when she refuses them acceptance with a press of her “Deny” stamp, she imagines them falling through a trap door, à la something you’d see in a James Bond villain’s lair. Another thing that’s interesting about the film is the way it depicts Ivy League universities putting a lot of weight and merit into U.S. News & World Report rankings, with Portia’s boss and head admissions officer (Wallace Shawn) advising other officers to be more selective with admitting students, as Princeton’s No. 2 ranking should be No. 1 next year.
However, of all the things Admission sheds light on when it comes to being admitted to Ivy League schools (and non-Ivy Leagues in general), it’s that college admissions is a subjective process. There are plenty of capable applicants, but it often depends on an admissions officer’s mood that day. It also sadly reflects that geniuses, like Fey’s movie son, often fall through the cracks because of a few bad years in high school or rough transitional periods, even if their test scores are exceptional. The lengths to which Portia goes to help her son get admitted to Princeton are crazy and even unethical, but with such extreme acceptance ratios (1 in 26), it’s sad that often that’s the only way to get into such a university, even if you are erudite and suited for the institution.
For those who’ve seen it, what did you think of the film? Did it make you nervous about the admissions process?