Friday, June 26, 2009

The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College by Jacques Steinberg

In order for a book to make this list, it has to stick with me over time, popping into my head, informing conversations with friends, and generally establishing itself in my long-term memory. Well, I have to say that The Gatekeepers by Jacques Steinberg is now successfully plugged into my circuitry. It is a non-fictional account of the admissions process at prestigious Wesleyan University in Connecticut. The author, reporter Jacques Steinberg, shadowed a Wesleyan admissions officer through the trials and travails of high school visits, conversations with guidance counselors, student interviews, prospective student tours, etc. This book gives the reader an insider's knowledge of what an uppercrust Northern university is really looking for in an applicant (geography, for instance--they want students from all US states and every other country if possible.) The Gatekeepers was published in 2002. Since then, there has been a developing trend of terrific "admissions" fiction; two such books are Acceptance by Susan Coll and the more recent Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz. The latter book is an absolutely outstanding story of a Princeton University admissions officer's angst. All of these books give the reader a new appreciation for the hard work, turmoil, and extreme subjectivity of this profession. Even so, I'm glad my son won't be applying to college anytime soon. I'm not ready for it yet.

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