"From the fall of 1999 to the spring of 2000, New York Times education reporter Jacques Steinberg was given unparalleled access to an entire admissions season at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. In that time, he discovered just how difficult it could be to winnow down a list of nearly seven thousand applicants to seven hundred freshmen for the class of 2004. Steinberg follows an admissions officer and his eight counterparts through the daunting task of recruiting students nationwide, reading through each of their applications, and meeting behind closed doors for a week in March to finalize the incoming class. He also recounts the personal experiences of a half dozen high school seniors of various ethnic and economic backgrounds as they struggle through the often byzantine selection process. Find out why:
- high SATs and many extracurricular activities are not always critical
- a student's 'story' can either be helpful or detrimental
- one student with a 1480 SAT score and high grades can face stiff competition from another three thousand miles away whose board score is 900 and who has a handful of Ds on her report card
- an officer peering into the application pool is often most excited to see a reflection of him- or herself staring back"
- The Tortilla Test
- Don't Send Me Poems
- Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
- Considered Without Prejudice
- Read Faster, Say No
- Thundercats and X-Men
- Nothing to Do With the Dope
- Things Seem to Have Gone Well
- Unnamed Gorgeous Small Liberal Arts School
First, this is one of those works of non-fiction that reads like a novel. OK, maybe you won't think so if the inner workings of a highly-selective college admissions office sounds like Snoresville to you, but still. In following senior Wesleyan admissions officer Rafael (Ralph) Figueroa and his top prospects through the course of the admissions cycle, you really start to care about who gets in and who doesn't, who decides to come, and so on. Again, I do work in higher ed, so I may be biased in my interest -- but I also think it's a sign of Steinberg's skill as an author and journalist that he makes you care, and feel mostly like you're reading a story rather than being lectured to.