Published Jan. 19, 2020
By KEA YENGST
High school seniors across America dread the yearly college application process. Fortunately, Jeffrey Selingo, an esteemed New York Times bestselling author and an expert in the field of college admissions, returns to the world of publication with his book “Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions.”
The book is a combination of insight, research and memoir, exploring admissions statistics and describing Selingo’s interactions with students and admissions officers. While some chapters revisit Selingo’s personal experiences exploring these systems, others evaluate college rankings from sources like The Princeton Review and U.S. News, assessing the outcomes of real-world admissions processes practiced by well-known universities. Ranking systems like these are mentioned sporadically throughout, and Selingo effortlessly sews the rankings into actual student situations.
The application of both personal bias and research within Selingo’s writing is captivating, integrating both elements without awkward transitioning. Selingo applies these diverse observations well, especially when evaluating the admissions processes of three students whose applications contain unique contexts and backgrounds. Selingo further broadens his scope by recalling his experience in admissions offices at three different universities: a liberal arts college, a selective private university and a flagship public university.
One interesting topic the book explores is college advertisement, where Selingo evaluates the CollegeBoard’s Student Search Service and how it differentiates “seller” schools from “buyer” schools. This is especially prominent in the chapter titled “Selling a College,” which evaluates both “buyer” and “seller” schools with factors such as a graduate’s average income or scholarship opportunities.
Despite its many interesting applications of diversity and analysis within the admissions offices and among students, Selingo’s writing does contain room for improvement. For future publications, the author should consider discussing an additional student source or university solely focused on the traditional college application, specifically a statistics-based admissions process rather than a holistic one. While this not a make-or-break factor for the book as a whole, it would have been nice to see more depth and demography throughout.
What is most surprising about Selingo’s work is that he is able to mention recent rankings and application cycles for recent undergraduate classes. Within the preface, Selingo even mentions the abrupt changes in standardized testing requirements and other admissions-related factors in lieu of the traditional application process, which have come about because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be helpful to some, considering the book’s primary audience is high school upperclassmen.
“Who Gets In And Why: A Year Inside College Admissions” is the quintessential college application handbook for today’s parents, students and college consultants. It is an essential investment for those who are involved in the college application process and can be purchased on Amazon Prime or anywhere else where books are sold for $28 retail.