Cover Image: Who Gets In and Why

Who Gets In and Why

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Member Reviews

This one has been on my NG list longer then it should have been. It was an insiders look at the College Admissions process. I really enjoyed the insights into this field and exploring with the author some of the secondary dynamics that lead to the ultimate decision about whether a person attends or not.
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If Jeff Selingo's writing it, I'm definitely reading it. He's always got his finger on the pulse of higher ed and somehow knows the trends just before they happen. His books are brilliant, relevant and a must-read for those of us in field.
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What is it about the college admissions process that intrigues many of us? Be it fiction or non-fiction, getting a glimpse into the admissions process is always a draw for me and this was a book that both those of us who got our kids through and those who are just approaching the process will enjoy, albeit in different ways!
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This is a must read for anyone interested in the college admissions process. This can include parents, school staff and students who are in the early stages of college application season. The author did a great job in choosing different types of schools and following with an inside look as to how decisions are made. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this because it solidified many of my ideas about the admissions process having gone through it as a parent. The various factors that go into this process are so much greater than students realize. Clearly numbers matter but they aren't everything. Having the best application possible does not insure that you get into the college of your dreams. One thing that is discussed is how much forming the class into whatever the vision of it may be for the year is an interesting factor that students cannot control. Also, knowing the mission of the school and the student's goals is important to their success. I think reading all the information an Admissions' Director is key. Given the uncontrollable factors involved in the decision making, having the facts that allow a student to really know the schools that "fit" and then understanding that there will be factors outside of anything the applicant can do to influence that outcome is especially important. Books like this one are a great start in understanding the process that seems so unexplainable. This insight will help applicants maximize the pieces of the process that are within their control and have more success.
#WhoGetsInandWhy #Netgalley #Scribner
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WHO GETS IN AND WHY by Jeffrey Selingo (College (Un)Bound) is definitely generating "buzz" not only just with our Post High School Counseling faculty, but also in the media, with favorable reviews in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, plus a recent excerpt in The Atlantic. Throughout the text, Selingo uses numerous examples from shadowing admission officials at Davidson College, University of Washington, and Emory University to provide his take on "A Year Inside College Admissions."  He notes the changes in acceptance rates over the last few decades (in 1990, Johns Hopkins was accepting 53 percent versus 11 percent today), due in part to the increased number of applications per student which is itself a function of increasingly sophisticated direct marketing campaigns. Selingo acknowledges that "human beings like certainty, and admissions procedures provide anything but." However, he makes a valiant effort to describe the process, dividing his writing into three main sections: Fall: Recruitment Season; Winter: Reading Season: and Spring: Decision Season. WHO GETS IN AND WHY received starred reviews from Library Journal ("This well-researched work is an invaluable tool for college-bound students and their families …") and from Kirkus ("Selingo, who writes that he is 'astonished and frustrated' at the preoccupation with a small group of elite colleges, hammers home several points: Apply to colleges that will actually accept you. Consider what you and your parents can really afford, and carefully scrutinize financial aid offers. Think as much about what you will do once you’re in college as where you will go.").  You can learn more from Selingo about his goals in writing this book in his short video. [embedded in live post]

Relevant links in live post:
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/15/books/review/selingo-korn-levitz-college-admissions.html
https://www.wsj.com/articles/who-gets-in-and-why-and-the-college-conversation-review-the-price-of-admission-11600210784 
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/09/even-coronavirus-cant-kill-sat-and-act/616360/ 
https://vimeo.com/459699621
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This book is a must-read for any high school parent, especially those of rising seniors. 

Selingo is the proverbial fly on the wall during the admissions discussions at three institutions: two elite schools (Davidson College in North Carolina and Emory University in Georgia) as well as a large public school (University of Washington).

It’s pretty amazing that Selingo was allowed into the process. He does a great job of illustrating the application review cycle in an entertaining manner. Also he manages to be faithful to the tone and spirit of the process without criticizing the schools (and kudos to the 3 schools who participated.)

The book will help you understand why and how the college’s decision is very difficult, if not impossible, to “game.” But to get the most from this book, you need to read between the lines.

For example, Sellingo discusses the example of a young woman who is a typical applicant in terms of her high GPA, high SATs, excellent recommendations etc. But what sets her apart from other applicants is a very unusual extracurricular activity which obviously requires a large upfront financial investment. 

Selingo explains how the admissions committee acknowledges the extreme financial privilege which enables the applicant’s pursuit of her extracurricular. However, because the applicant “acknowledges her privilege” in her essay, the committee accepts her.

This example, along with other examples from Selingo, show how often family wealth, legacy, fundraising/development, and other situations that have little to do with academic merit influence the admissions decision.

From a practical standpoint, there are quite a few usable nuggets of information for students and parents, such as:

- how to find out the amount of financial-aid (need-based aid and merit-based) a school has awarded in the past

-- which AP course has been taken by more than 2/3rds of freshmen at a famous Ivy

--how admissions officers creative an “applicant story” from the application info 

As a parent of a rising junior and senior, this book has helped me to erase any misperceptions of admissions fairness or equity. My kids will apply broadly and intelligently, and laugh at “dream school” marketing. The next 2 years will be fun. Thank you, Jeff.
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This is essential reading for parents and students. It really helped me understand rejections are not personal but based on lots of factors out of the control of parents and students. There was great information about value vs brand.  I'm not sure how COVID will effect what I learned, but I found it comforting anyway.
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There’s nothing fair about college admissions and, as Selingo shows throughout Who Gets In and Why, the process is much like the self-serving process of picking teammates for a game of kickball: seemingly arbitrary from the outside, however, each selection is determined by specific truths relevant to the chooser’s priorities and biases. Thoroughly researched with views through varied lenses, Selingo has provided an honest, authentic, and sugar-free account of the college admissions process today and does so more successfully than any other college admissions book I have seen. I have difficult conversations for a living and appreciate Selingo’s craft with words as he delivers information that is true but likely counter to what an applicant or his/her/their family would want to hear. It's the type of resource I want my students and their parents to read, but also one I may not want them to read because it is spot on and I don't know how they'll respond once they see "how the burger is made."

There were certain can't-miss topics I hoped would be covered in this book, and they all were to varying degrees.
-The inclusion of the realities of need-aware financial aid is essential and most important because it is a major focus of college admissions these days. The outlined view from Lafayette provides the blunt truth that college counselors know but families don’t. Having worked in the admissions office at a small liberal arts college previously, I know the impact of being need-aware and why offices would not want to discuss that with you.
-Holistic review is naturally flawed due to its subjectivity. I don't say that as a negative; I say it as a reality that simply needs to be acknowledged. I loved the reference to Karabel and what he says HYP termed "the Jewish Problem," as it highlights a practice used for good as one that has more sinister roots. Overall, holistic review isn't a bad thing but it is not what people think it is or what colleges tell people it is. Selingo does a great job of showing us what it looks like in practice.
-The concept of merit, in everyone's minds, is miscalculated. I really appreciated Selingo's dive into what meritocracy actually is and how colleges operate using it.
-Selingo discussed test-optional admissions rather briefly, but I feel like it is a bigger conversation when you shift away from the top tier institutions. Clearly test-optional admissions has been amplified during this upcoming cycle due to tests not being able to be administered to protect against COVID-19, however, this is a movement that has gained a lot of traction prior to that and is a major discussion in the admissions world today. Additionally, when discussing athlete admissions, there was no discussion about required testing for this group. There are many institutions that, even if they are test-optional, require athletes to submit test scores even if other students don't have to. It's an interesting wrinkle that I thought might be explored but is much less important than the test-optional movement in general.

Overall, Selingo is spot on in this book in a way that illuminates what is happening behind closed doors. With years of experience as a college admissions officer and college counselor, it was great to see the reinforcement of ideas and practices I have observed while also learning new things or exploring data I hadn't seen before.
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I've always been fascinated by the whole world of college admissions. Why is it so difficult to get into Harvard? Stanford? Yale? In Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions, author Jeffrey Selingo explains exactly what goes on behind the scenes in secretive college admissions offices and explains what exactly students can do to better the odds of getting in to their chosen school.


The key word in the previous paragraph was "secretive." Rarely does someone get the chance to ingrain themselves inside three different admissons offices as decisions are made that will affect the rest of a student's life. Selingo writes that getting in doesn't have as much to do with a student's test scores and extracurricular activities (although they aren't unimportant) as it does with what a particular school's "needs" are that year. He also argues that students should try to understand that there are plenty of great schools out there that "aren't" Ivy League or top-ranked and that broadening their choices may result in a wonderful experience at a place they never thought of.

My favorite book about college admissions will always be Jacques Steinberg's The Gatekeepers. However, this is a close second. It's meticulously reported and offers assistance to students and parents as they go through what many consider a very stressful time.

MY RATING - 4
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In Who Gets in and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions, Jeffrey Selingo gives readers a true insider’s view into the world of selective college admissions.

How do I know? I work in this field and can attest to the fact that the author has provided a detailed and nuanced peek behind the curtains. 

A modern day deep dive into the world of college admissions - skin to The Gatekeepers and Creating a Class - Selingo brings readers into the “room where it happens” providing direct insights from enrollment leaders and those who read and review thousands of college applications each year.

The closing chapters offer excellent guidance to readers and some recommendations for higher education.

I strongly recommend Selingo’s Who Gets in and Why to anyone approaching a college
search as well as my colleagues working to support students and families navigating the admissions process.
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As a high school career counselor, this book provided a fascinating look at the behind the scenes conversations of admissions officers. It is a VERY detailed look at the university selection process at three specific universities. The author also weaves in a handful of students that we follow during their admissions journey. It is brutal in so many ways and something I have experienced with our school's students as well--eye-opening to see what goes on behind the iron curtain.
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I love that this book isn't what other college-related books are. While I expected this book to contain tips and tricks for college admissions process and applications, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it held more of a behind-the-scenes view of the process itself. The beginning, detailing one college's arduous (and arbitrary) process of accepting, denying, or wait listing applications opened my eyes to the truth. I was astonished by certain points of complexity for colleges, like how they consider legacy students into admissions. I also didn't consider much about how finances play in acceptance. For example, if a student might require aid are directly discriminated against for not generating tuition dollars. Colleges may be non-profit institutions, but their policies and practices are inherently self-motivated.
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If you never knew how college admissions work, this book will do a great job at showing you how everything works behind the scenes.

It's proof that you don't have to have perfect scores to get into top schools.

Would highly recommend for any college bound people.
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Having gone through the tedious torturous application process with my son,I was fascinated to learn what really goes on behind the scenes.Informative eye opening revealing look at the entrance process.Fascinating look at all the  facts some uncontrollable that goes into your acceptance or rejection,Highly recommend.#netgalley#scribner
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As a parent of four children who will go to college at some point, I was very excited to read this book. It goes very in depth into three different college admissions offices and gives you a very open and detailed description on how colleges go through the piles and piles of applications and how they finally decide on who gets in, when they get in and any aid that may be offered. I underestimated how much other than grades go into who gets in. A great read that I plan on picking up again in a few years. If you have children going to college soon, pick this book up.
Thank you Netgalley,Jeffrey Selingo and Scribner for the ARC for my honest review.
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Wow, this was a really interesting read! I was so engrossed into the book I read it all in one sitting. 

Essentially, this book examines what happens behind closed doors of college admissions offices, as the author spent a year in the decision-making process of several colleges and universities, to share how acceptance is based. The book first starts with a history of college admissions, as most people used to apply to just a few schools, with the average student now applying to more than double the original norm of 2-3. He then details from a high school counselor how they work with schools, and also how what high school you go to can also determine much of your chances of getting in, as students from one high school often apply to the same few schools. 

The actual documentation of the meetings was fascinating. Seeing how arbitrary a lot of these decisions are, as well as how students are often compared against each other when they come from the same high-school, or how getting one glowing recommendation letter or writing a glowing personal essay can trump a GPA or SAT score. 

Schools often have to make admissions decisions based on finances and have to decide how likely a student is to need or accept aid. This leads to students with greater need being indrectly and directly discriminated against in this process, as students without aid needs who will generate tuition dollars don't face the same types of scrutiny from the admissions department.

I could go on and on about interesting points from this book, it's incredibly well written!
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While very informative, this book wasn’t necessarily exactly what I’d hoped it’d be. It selves into the whole politics of admissions and red tape and extra stuff from an insider’s view and goes deeper than what I was looking for. I just wanted some tips and tricks and ideas to maybe drop to my kids or remind myself of. It’s more than that and is really quite fascinating.
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My children have been out of college for a while now but I still find the whole college admissions process to be fascinating.  As a sociology major, I feel that there are great research projects to be done on the subject.


About twenty years ago, an author named Steinberg published a book called The Gatekeepers.  Who Gets In and Why strikes me very much as an updated look at the issues addressed in that earlier title. 


What readers will learn is that college admissions is a complex entity.  Those who are naive may think admissions is all about rewarding the best or most hardworking students but that is not really the case.  There are so many facets of the school's own agendas that influence who does or does not get the coveted "yes" letter.  Readers need only think of Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman to know just how true that is.


In this book, Mr. Selingo looks at the process from the perspectives of three different types of institutions, a private and a public university and also a liberal arts college.  The result makes for a fascinating read.


College admissions will no doubt be affected by the Corona virus with questions about what will happen to campus life and more.  Nonetheless this book provides a keen insight into what has been happening in higher education.


Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this title in exchange for an honest review.
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As a recent college grad who's been through the circus of admissions, I was fascinating by the subject and hoped for more insight. Well, I got what I wanted! As someone with zero knowledge about the process, I was gobsmacked at certain points, including the parts about the complexity in the college's agenda and legacy students. A must-read for upcoming and past students.
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