Being An ‘Unhooked White Girl’ In High School Not The Path To Failure
9:30 am, April 6th | by Laura Donovan
As I’ve said on countless occasions, now seems like a terrible time to be in high school. Students are expelled for publishing innocuous tweets, skinny jeans are the next contraband, and cyberbullying is reportedly prompting minors to take their own lives. Finally, being a regular high school student — i.e., someone who does not defy gravity before the age of 17 — doesn’t appear good enough on paper for the admissions folks at Harvard and Yale.
As reported by the Daily Beast, the latest self-reported statistics from colleges for the class of 2012 reveal that “unhooked white girls” are the hardest hit in the college admissions process and given the short end of the stick simply for not having built a software program as Mark Zuckerberg did in high school:
["Unhooked white girls"] is the euphemism for smart girls with really good grades and solid SAT scores, but who lack some special “hook” or positioning—for example, being a star athlete, concert pianist or first generation to go to college. They experienced a particularly tough time getting into most of the nation’s most competitive colleges. But they may enjoy a bit of peace of mind knowing everyone else did as well.
Oh, I see, misery loves company, even when you’re an “unhooked white girl” whose hard work in the classroom is slowly but surely losing its value. Though I’ve been out of high school for six years, the plight of the “unhooked white girl” was somewhat noticeable during my teenage years, when I too was criticized for failing to select a socially acceptable extracurricular. Athletics were out of the question because I never cared to learn the rules of baseball and found sports very stressful and traumatic (P.E. class scarred me for life). I couldn’t play an instrument because my fingers don’t sync up or work in unison. I enjoyed writing but came from a Podunk town of 10,000 in which writing opportunities were few and far between, so it wasn’t until after high school that I was able to put my sole talent to good use. Yet I wound up in my dream career, no hook necessary. I wasn’t Ivy League material, but the end result is what’s most important.
Jezebel writer Katie J.M. Baker recalls having a similar experience:
[M]ost of you are probably getting out your tiniest violins for the thousands of smart, upper-middle class white girls who didn’t get into Harvard, but as a former unhooked white girl myself, I can sympathize. I attended a private high school, and almost all of my peers went on to private, top-notch universities. My public-school educated parents didn’t understand the concept of being “hooked” and therefore let me do whatever I wanted after school and during the summer. I spent my free time reading, attending musical theater camp, and interning at magazines, because those were the activities I was interested in as a 15 and 16-year-old girl, not starting breast cancer philanthropies or volunteering in Kenya…My college counselor and I struggled over how I should “package” myself, and I would leave every session hating myself because I hadn’t written a novel or built any houses for the homeless. I was smart, passionate about a variety of issues, and interested in the world, but I wasn’t really special.
Despite the odds being stacked against her, Baker made something of herself in former “unhooked white girl” fashion, and this isn’t all that surprising. As Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive quoted from the play, “M Butterfly” last year, “There is no surer formula for failure in life than success in high school.”
“The Office” writer Mindy Kaling makes a similar claim in her new memoir, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” in which she says, “Teenage girls, please don’t worry about being super popular in high school, or being the best actress in high school, or the best athlete. Not only do people not care about any of that the second you graduate, but when you get older, if you reference your successes in high school too much, it actually makes you look kind of pitiful, like some babbling old Tennessee Williams character with nothing else going on in her current life. What I’ve noticed is that almost no one who was a big star in high school is also big star later in life. For us overlooked kids, it’s so wonderfully fair.” Yes. It is.
Even some educators say that a certain amount of failure in these years is actually beneficial, and you don’t end up looking like a has-been, so being an “unhooked white girl” does not pave the way for the road to disaster. After all, there’s so much more to life than high school.