THE GATEKEEPERS: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College

Jacques Steinberg, Author . Viking $25.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-670-03135-1

Education reporter Steinberg presents a compelling tale in this account, told from the perspective of Ralph Figueroa, an admissions officer at Wesleyan University. Expanding on a series of articles in the New York Times, Steinberg provides an insider's look at how Figueroa and the school's admissions committee factored grades, test scores, essays, extracurricular activities and race into account as they winnowed 700 students for the class of 2004 from nearly 7,000 applicants. Using real names, applications and interviews, Steinberg follows six applicants of varying backgrounds from their first encounter with Figueroa to their final acceptance or rejection. Although not a how-to book per se, Steinberg's work does include helpful advice, such as "there's no way to outthink this process" and "if you've got something you want to write, then write it the way you want." Steinberg portrays Figueroa and the other admissions officers as doing the best they can to give each applicant a fair assessment, despite their responsibility for 1,500 of them. Among the book's surprises are that supplementary material, no matter how impressive, carries no weight in deciding who gets in, while honesty about a mistake—in one case, an incident involving a pot brownie—can influence an admissions officer to admit. Wesleyan's high standards—e.g., a 1350 combined score on the SAT—may put some readers off, but the process that Steinberg describes is similar at most private colleges and universities. Agent, Kris Dahl. (On sale Sept. 16)

Forecast:College applicants, who are bombarded with test prep guides and annual college resources, probably won't pick this up, but their parents and guidance counselors will surely want it. An author tour and national reviews will help raise their awareness of it.

Reviewed on: 07/29/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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