After ‘Admission,’ the question remains: What’s it really like?

PAW blogger Gavin Schlissel ’13 checks in with his impressions of the film Admission, set (and in part, filmed) at the University.

Princeton returned to the big screen last week for the first time since Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen with the release of Admission, a new movie starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd as a pair of star-crossed lovers on opposite ends of the college admissions process.

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From left, big-screen admission officers Tina Fey, Wallace Shawn, and Gloria Reuben. (Photo: Courtesy Focus Features)

The film, more of a romantic comedy than a documentary tell-all, follows a college admissions officer with a scattered personal life (Fey) and a high school director (Rudd) with what can only be described as a chronic need to solve other peoples’ problems.

Though the movie is far from documentary, it does invite reconsideration of the college admissions process from the perspective of an admissions officer. Notably, the admissions committee meeting (chaired by a pink-faced, balding admissions dean who could not be more dissimilar from our Dean Janet Rapelye in physical appearance or personal presentation) cast the admissions decisions as some kind of petty political game, in which officers have a personal interest in the fate of individual students and trade favors to secure votes for their favorite applicants.

In a theater full of Princeton undergraduates, scenes like the admissions committee meeting drew awkward giggles from students imagining their own application files in front of admissions officers. As applicants with perfect test scores and umpteen extra-curricular activities were discussed and often denied admission, murmurs of “I know a kid like that,” or “Oh my god, that seems just like bicker” rippled through the theater.

Though the movie was fiction rather than journalism, many students could not avoid watching the movie in the context of their own (successful) Princeton admissions bid. “I still can’t believe how lucky I am that I got in,” said Lauren Piana ’14 immediately after the screening. “The movie makes the whole process seem so arbitrary. I wonder what it’s really like.”

 

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Gavin Schlissel ’13 is a molecular biology major from Moraga, Calif.