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Defending Kwasi Enin

On March 27, students from across the country heard back from Ivy League colleges about whether they were accepted or not. Among them was Kwasi Enin, a 17-year-old student from William Floyd High School in Long Island, who got accepted to every single Ivy League school. Knowing the extreme amount of luck and skill it takes to get into just one, the fact that Kwasi was able to get into one, let alone eight, is an incredible achievement.

Unfortunately, some saw this event as an opportunity to deride and discredit him, rather than to celebrate his gifts and talents.

From USA Today to TFM, many commenters obsessed over Kwasi’s race or immigrant status. Without even getting to know who he was, the commenters felt this was an open invitation to dismiss his acceptances as a product of affirmative action, based on the fact that he didn’t get perfect SAT scores or wasn’t ranked number one in his class.

USA Today News did little to show us who Kwasi the person was. Unlike the New York Post, which posted a copy of his admissions essay online detailing his passion for music, USA Today gave a list of extracurriculars, some class grades and a quote about his desire to study medicine. In the process, we never get the opportunity to learn why Kwasi is unique. Instead, we just get a list of statistics that ignores any of his potential holistic qualities.

By reducing him to only his class rank or SAT scores, these commenters opened up harsh criticisms based on superficial qualities. Even worse, USA Today unnecessarily brings up his ethnicity. College admissions expert Katherine Cohen, who USA Today quotes in their piece, perfectly characterizes this issue when she claims that part of his uniqueness is that “[h]e’s not a typical African-American kid.”

When describing his stats, USA Today mentions that his score of 2250 “puts him in the 99th percentile for African-American students.” How about the 99th percentile for all students? Isn’t this an extreme accomplishment for any individual regardless of their race?

However, even though getting a 2250 for anyone is a difficult achievement, criticizers have found fault in his lack of a perfect score. Hell, I’m an Asian-American who got 2210 on my SAT. Despite the 40-point difference, my acceptance was not littered with shocks of surprise or comments from others about how I did not “deserve” to get in.

Additionally, USA Today later decided to remove Cohen’s quote in the original article without comment or mention of their revision (which can be found here, on a copy of the original piece). This is an example of shoddy reporting at its worst. Sweeping these views under the rug or censoring them without explanation is not only poor reporting, but also tries to cover up and hide the flaws of the world that we live in today.

Overall, when we use this rhetoric, we create this expectation that African-American students are incapable of being phenomenal, that this fantastic achievement was only special by virtue of his race. However, it is even worse when we try to pretend that these views and beliefs do not exist within our society. An unfortunate reality of the world we live in today is that racism exists. While all steps should be taken to reduce it, by ignoring it those of us who do not hold these views do the opposite — we pretend that there isn’t a problem at all.

All in all, we really do not know much about who Kwasi Enin is, nor what his entire application looked like. We are not the Ivy League admissions boards, and trying to validate or dismiss his merit based on a few articles is a ridiculous mistake.

That being said, congratulations to Kwasi and to all of the other lucky students who got accepted to their dream colleges. Be ready for some of the greatest years of your lives. Don’t let the assumptions of others undermine you and your accomplishments.

Benjamin Dinovelli is a sophomore from Mystic, Conn. He can be reached at bjd5@princeton.edu.

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