Thursday, June 24, 2010

Recommended Read

I've been making my way through the books in the college office library and recently finished The Gatekeepers by Jacques Steinberg. If that name sounds familiar to you, it is because he is a writer for the Education section of the New York Times.

The Gatekeepers is an in-depth look at a year in the life of the Wesleyan Admissions Office during the Fall of 1999 and Spring of 2000 to recruit the class of 2004. This also happens to be the year that I myself was a senior in high school, so the book resonated for me even more.

As a former Admissions Officer, my respect for Wesleyan only grows given how transparent they were willing to be and the access they were willing to grant. Their candor is refreshing. I know how confusing admissions decisions can seems. In all honesty, many people will probably still be confused when they read the book, because the system doesn't seem 'fair.' But if you are willing to read this book with an open mind, what I hope you will realize is that there is a Wesleyan out there for every student. What I mean by that is that there is a place with an admissions office that is willing to take chances, go "off-profile" and fight for applicants they believe in. The process is a human one and "mistakes" are undoubtedly made each year, but as I've said here before: life hands you gifts and challenges and both are valuable.

This book is not meant to be the final word on the admissions process. It can speak only to the way the process is done at Wesleyan, and ten years ago at that. But, it can hopefully illuminate how students are considered in the context of their environment. It also addresses how nuances that make one student land in the admit pile and an equally qualified student land in the deny pile are impossible to predict.

If any students, or parents, decide to read this book I hope you come out of it with the same conclusions that I did. Admissions is stressful, for both the colleges and the students. Empower yourself by doing what you can to understand the process, and doing even more to understand yourself. Wesleyan is part of a small percentage of schools that do have the luxury of turning away highly qualified and capable candidates. Balance your options by considering some schools that may have more straightforward admissions criteria or places that are looking for students just like you.

If nothing else, turn to page 161 and read the essay submitted with Jordan Goldman's application. It is a great example of a well written personal statement that illuminates the character of the author and keeps the attention of the admission officer.

Happy Reading!