If you or your children or grandchildren or anyone you know applied to college or graduate school you know that it is at this time of year the acceptance and rejection letters begin to arrive. Colleges and universities have their algorithms for choosing those they accept and those they pass on. Acceptances are based on a formula that takes into account some very objective measures like college entrance test scores, an average of prior grades, extracurricular activities, as well as some more subjective measures where some weight is given to letters of recommendation, an essay or two written by the candidate and on some occasions a personal interview is also weighted in the formula. Having a legacy at the school, a close relative who went and succeeded there often helps grease the admission wheels as does donating a new science building if you are so well heeled and thus inclined. Being involved in sports helps in some universities while others seek applicants with more engineering or musical talent. In the end though, each school has its own way of combining the data and using it to select what the school believes to be the best students for them, which they often refer to as the ones most likely to gain from the experience of being a student at their school. It is the rare student who is accepted for financial or legacy reasons exclusively.

This is also the time of year that Israeli yeshivot send out their acceptances to American student candidates. They, like colleges, have a formula as to who they believe will make the best talmidim or students in their particular setting. But, there is no consistent objective measure that is divulged or that is known to be used. What we do know is that the yeshiva interview is heavily weighted in this and consists mainly of a test of one sort or another for boys in which they have to explain some section of the Talmud. Girls are often given a written test. Of course legacy helps someone get in to a yeshiva as does a nice donation, but there are other, as to be expected, somewhat mystical factors. Sometimes wearing the right clothing may seem to be the decisive feature. Sometimes wearing the wrong clothing is the deciding element. Jeans are usually shunned as well as colored shirts in some yeshivas. The school in America that the student has attended has a great deal of input because they counsel their students as to which college as well as which yeshiva is best for them. Schools in America act as feeder schools to certain yeshivot is Israel. In some instances all the students that apply from a certain American school get in to the Israeli yeshiva they apply to and in some cases just a few students get in. Sometimes the American school counselors are dumbfounded as to why some get in and others do not.

In the end both universities and colleges and yeshivot is Israel have very comparable approaches, if not specific guidelines, as to how they go about the admission process. They all choose who they want as students and have their own somewhat similar guidelines. Similar save for one variable that the yeshivot do that the colleges do not. When you ask why you were not accepted to a college they may provide you with specific information – your grades were not what we were looking for or your SAT aptitude scores were not in the proper range and so forth.  The university may even invite you to reapply after you have taken some courses at another school and have shown that you can achieve better grades. Israeli yeshivot generally do not give reasons for rejecting a student. If a parent pushes for a reason why their child was not accepted they may get a response from the yeshiva.

I have heard from several people over the last two weeks that yeshivot have been explaining the reason for rejecting a potential student, when they do offer a reason, as related to a diagnosis. The best one, but not necessarily the most unique reason, I have so far heard is that “during the interview Yosef was fidgety and the interviewer felt that he had an Obsessive Compulsive disorder”. Aren’t most interviewees anxious and some are fidgety?  It seems to be accepted in these settings that untrained individuals are free to give a psychological diagnosis. I thought we already learned that the use of unlicensed professionals can, and has, led to very severe consequences. I hope the yeshivot do not record and share this false information among themselves.

If you are a parent who has received a rejection to a yeshiva that you strongly feel your child should attend there may be some recourse – just tell them that if they do not accept your child you will have no choice but to send that child to college. That is the last thing they want.