How does a college reject applicants? The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) counts the ways: Harvard is compassionate, Boston University discouraging. Mount Allision University offers a personal touch, and Duke is wonderfully kind: "I know you will find an institution at which you will be happy; I know, too, that the school you choose will benefit from your presence."

Duke admissions dean Christoph Guttentag knows what it's like to receive the dreaded thin envelope. "Mr. Guttentag says he's had particular empathy for rejected applicants," the Journal reports, "since his own daughter was rejected by several kindergartens four years ago."

Hold on. Did he just say kindergarten?

This is so messed up, on so many levels, that it's hard to know where to start. But I'll start with this: Isn't it a little disappointing that the admissions dean at one of America's most prestigious universities devotes his spare energy to competitive admissions at an elite institution of fingerpainting?

Beyond that, could Guttentag really believe that watching his daughter get spurned by private kindergartens gives him any insight into how high-school seniors feel when a university rejects their applications? Does he honestly think his daughter cared that she didn't get into the elite kindergarten program her father wanted her to attend?

Four-year olds don't even care whether their wee-wee gets into the toilet, let alone where they're going to school. They're far too busy having fun, learning about the world with their own senses, to worry about the increasingly pitched battle for kindergarten admissions. Guttentag's daughter cared only to the extent that he cared; it's likely she never even knew she'd applied or been rejected. It's shocking that he's still wounded enough to mention it to a reporter four years later.

Or maybe it isn't so shocking. Guttentag's daughter isn't the one who got rejected by this kindergarten; Guttentag is. It's pathetic that any wealthy parent, much less one who's ostensibly a college-admissions guru, would still be smarting years later over their failure -- sorry, their child's failure -- to break into kindergarten.

I'm sure he means well and that he's a loving parent, but it's pretty troubling that the guardian of the gates at an institute of higher learning is so caught up in the rat race of his toddler's elitism. Imagine the pressure by the time she gets to her fourth year of high school. It's a good thing Guttentag's daughter is virtually assured of a spot in a future freshman class at Duke. If a university were to say no, I'm not sure Guttentag could take it.

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