About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Monday, June 6, 2011

#47: The Gatekeepers

The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College, by Jacques Steinberg (New York: Viking, 2002).

"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:
Table of Contents:
  1. The Tortilla Test
  2. Don't Send Me Poems
  3. Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
  4. Considered Without Prejudice
  5. Read Faster, Say No
  6. Thundercats and X-Men
  7. Nothing to Do With the Dope
  8. Things Seem to Have Gone Well
  9. 420-ed
  10. Unnamed Gorgeous Small Liberal Arts School
My Take:
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.

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