Questions raised about age as factor for rejection

Kelsey Caetano-Anolles became the University’s youngest graduate in its history when she walked to receive her diploma last spring at the ripe age of 17. When most her age would just be starting their collegiate careers, she had earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and was set to apply for graduate schools in clinical psychology in the fall.

But Caetano-Anolles faced quite a different challenge when she heard back from the University’s admissions board: denial because she wasn’t old enough. The alumna’s rejection from the University’s graduate program surfaces discussion of a topic that isn’t frequented very often — that of reverse age discrimination.

While race, sex and income level are among the more obvious factors that are taken into consideration when admissions board members look at any application, it is important to realize what an applicant’s age might signal about his or her qualifications.

With age comes experience. And while age itself should not be the reason for rejection, nor acceptance, into any institution, it is an important indicator of his or her maturity and the diversity of experiences that the applicant has been exposed to. Oftentimes, we see students who graduate earlier rejected from top tier medical, law and graduate schools because the admissions board feels other applicants with more time under their belt have an edge over said student.

Caetano-Anolles’s case is a particular one since she is studying a field where emotional maturity is incredibly important. Though we cannot be the arbiters of her level of emotional readiness, it is important, nonetheless, that the University takes cautious measures in admitting on a case-by-case basis only those who are fully capable of being in the field — not only intellectually, but emotionally. She said in her column in the Huffington Post “Too Young For College? My Fight Against Reverse Age Discrimination” that admissions board members told her she “lacked experience” and was “too young.”

Though we cannot judge anyone on their level of maturity, we suggest that University admissions establish a standard in regards to underage applicants. If age will be used to gauge the qualifications of an applicant, it should be made clear and spelled out in the application process.