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The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges -- and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates
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The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges -- and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  253 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Every spring thousands of middle-class and lower-income high-school seniors learn that they have been rejected by America’s most exclusive colleges. What they may never learn is how many candidates like themselves have been passed over in favor of wealthy white students with lesser credentials—children of alumni, big donors, or celebrities.

In this explosive book, the Pulit...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Crown
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Freakonomics by Steven D. LevittThe Tipping Point by Malcolm GladwellOutliers by Malcolm GladwellNickel and Dimed by Barbara EhrenreichBlink by Malcolm Gladwell
Sociology Books
79th out of 264 books — 247 voters
The Chosen by Jerome KarabelThe Price of Admission by Daniel GoldenExcellent Sheep by William DeresiewiczThe Price of Silence by William D. CohanEbony and Ivy by Craig Steven Wilder
Controversies in Higher Education
2nd out of 61 books — 3 voters


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Community Reviews

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Lisa
Not bad at all. I think this will unfortunately put more fuel to the fire to those who weren't accepted to the college of their choice. Sometimes, yes, there is some question as to why some students are accepted or denied. But sometimes, you're denied because you don't fulfill the qualifications.

There was one interesting section on Asian applicants and how Asians must excel twice as well as their white counterparts in order to be accepted. We don't fall under Affirmative Action. So, if an Asian...more
Kathleen
This is an entertaining and well-researched read. The gist of the book didn't surprise me (and it's clearly evident from the title), but the extent to which faculty children, "legacies" and the wealthy/famous get breaks in the college admissions game was a bit of a shock. The author won a Pulitzer with the Wall St. Journal for his writings on this subject.
Yofish
Written by the Wall Street Journal Education writer. Had maybe enough for a newspaper article. It is his position that US colleges are not meritocracies because of legacy admission, sports (especially rich, white sports) scholarships, and going after children of wealth in order to increase endowments. But he doesn't really make the case--he mostly states it and assumes that you must agree. Nor does he make a good case about why I should care, either as a Yale alum or as a US citizen. Some of it...more
Michelle
Rich kids, celebrities, and legacies getting preferential treatment and perpetuating a culture of privilege at Ivy Leagues isn't ground-breaking, but it was interesting to read how it works in practice. Title IX prompting a rise in "patrician sports" scholarships for girls already wealthy was also informative.

The "Asian fail" and Asian quotas won't be a new concept if you live in California, but I liked that Golden differentiated the subgroups of the Asian-American label, and how this arbitrary...more
Rob
Golden does a great job of explaining one of the major problems in American college admissions. It is much easier to get into an elite university if you are the child of an alum or potential donor or a good athlete in an upper class sport. Admissions to America's top universities is not what we want to believe it should be. In the same breath that Golden blasts legacy preference, he lauds Affirmative Action. However, he does seem to admit in passing that if you can do away with one, you should b...more
Hannah
I stopped reading this one at about chapter 4 or 5... After a while, it becomes abundantly clear that, yes, powerful, rich, or famous parents are able to get more attention from Ivy college admissions officers and are often able to get their children into schools that they otherwise might not get into based solely on merit. It doesn't often seem like these kids are too much of a stretch to admit, since a lot of them have grown up going to elite prep schools, but the point Golden makes is that th...more
Lisa
I'm fascinated by books of this nature, but I wanted more from this book. The author does an excellent job of delving into the many advantages certain groups get regardless of need. For example, development children. These are students who often get an admissions boost because they come from a wealthy family and the development folks hope to encourage their parents to donate by admitting their children. The problem with this is that these children are often way behind their peers academically an...more
Rebecca
I am starting to get on an admissions kick of real life this time, not just in fiction. Like how impossible is it to get into an Ivy? According to this book, very. Legacies, who aren't required to adhere to the same standards as normal applicants (I can think of someone I know who got into Harvard who really didn't deserve it), celeb kids, which coming from Los Angeles, was interesting. Half the time, the kid didn't even want to go there and rarely ends up graduating, which is annoying for every...more
Jeanne
I never applied to an elite college, but I had friends and classmates who did. Two of my high school classmates went to Cornell, and one went to Yale. And now I know how tough it was to get there. I also know that something besides their academic records may have gotten them into the Ivy League.

Golden's book examines who is being admitted to the Ivy League, etc. and why. The following reasons are examined:

Parents who are big donors
Families who are big potential donors
Celebrities
Legacies
Upper cru...more
Lauren
Wow. After ten years in college admission I thought I knew something about the process, but Dan Golden definitely proved that wrong, at least where the Ivies are concerned. Chapter after chapter details how legacy status, fame, money and bias against Asian Americans influence the shaping of the classes at some of America's most elite institutions. While none of this (on it's face) is a surprise to me, the *extent to which* preference is practiced has been rather shocking to come to terms with. A...more
Tiffany
Oct 23, 2011 Tiffany rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tiffany by: The Colbert Report (9/21/06)
I saw him on The Colbert Report and what he said totally kicked ass.

-----------------------------------

So, Golden has good (and really infuriating) ideas, I just think he beat a dead horse sometimes. It almost reminded me of something I'd do when writing a paper in school -- I found all of this good evidence, and all of these great quotes, and I wanted to use THEM ALL. Edit, edit, edit. I realize that all of his evidence and statistics were used to drive home the point, but it got repetitive at...more
Chris
Sep 20, 2008 Chris rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who went to Duke
Shelves: nonfiction
Describes in detail the inequalities in admissions at elite universities. He is thoroughly convincing. Turns out that admissions committees at all elite universities (Except Cal Tech) have "development cases" where applicants are admitted based on the money their parents have given (or will give) to the university. I was actually surprised how cheap it is to buy your kid into a university (sometimes as little as $50K--not exactly the kind of money I have, but I would have expected it to be in th...more
Jeff
In a series of articles for the Wall Street Journal, Golden brought attention to controversial aspects of college admissions that act to hinder economic diversity at elite campuses. The most striking allegation is that many universities mantain active communication between the admissions and development offices. For example, the development office at Duke applied pressure to accept applicants from wealthy families even if there had been no sign of interest in donations. Golden illustrates the un...more
Scott
Fascinating and eye opening book. Takes concepts you are already aware of (admission for donors kids, legacy, Title 9, faculty kids) and shows how deliberate and ingrained these policies are. Every twenty pages or so was a mind blowing stat I was unaware of. Golden also does a great job exposing the policies by letting the facts speak for themselves.

At the same time I did not find this book depressing, but rather could not help to think that these universities are doing themselves a disservice...more
Amy Wolf
I actually felt physically ill reading Golden's statistics and empirical examples of how the wealthy and privileged (read: legacies, athletes, "development" [offspring of the rich)]are able to leapfrog ahead of genuine merit in order to gain a place at America's most prestigious institutions. It's an old boys' club (mainly white, and usually rich) which weights the odds against the worthy as they make future job connections in the hallowed halls of the Ivies. Meanwhile, actual _star students_ ar...more
Ron
If you've wondered why Generation Y is the dumbest and most corrupt in history, this book will provide most of the answers (at least those not related to TV, videogames, and media brainwashing, though those may be part of the problem). At least a quarter of those admitted to the elite universities in this country are completely unqualified to attend those universities, entering because they are either legacies of parents who are wealthy donors, the children of celebrities, faculty brats, or elit...more
Jake
An incredible work detailing how several colleges and universities have utilized their admissions offices to raise money and prestige, while sacrificing their academic integrity. Each chapter focuses on a different tactic or issue in higher education admissions, be it legacies, development cases, patrician athletics and how they manipulate Title IX, or discrimination against Asian American students. Every tactic is explored largely at one school, but other institutions are freely listed, and mos...more
Amy
Sep 15, 2013 Amy rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: someone that needs a book to fall asleep to at night
Shelves: college, non-fiction
This should have been a magazine or newspaper article, there just wasn't enough information to fill an entire book. The author said the same things over and over, just gave examples of different kids. I'm not bothered by the subject matter either, so maybe that was why I found the book to be pretty boring. Having just gone through college admissions with my daughter, I thought this book would be a fun read, wrong! She had not one of the advantages mentioned and had zero trouble getting into mult...more
Leon M
"The Price of Admission" deals with the discrimination present everywhere in the American educational system. It was very interesting to read about the "legacy effect" and I was shocked that this was even a factor openly known and accepted. I also enjoyed the description of Caltech, portrayed as a potential blueprint for a "meritocracy" admitting applicants based only on their skills, not money.

This book is full of facts, and you will encounter new names at least once every page while reading it...more
Tia
Sort of interesting, but how newsworthy is it that ultra-rich, ultra-famous people can buy their kids' way into an elite college? And while I feel bad for Asians who are rejected from top-notch schools when less qualified people get in, I really feel like there are other things to be outraged about. The world is stacked against all sorts of people, and this seems like the least worrisome instance of it, especially since education at a prestigious college is not a guarantor of success like it onc...more
Courtney Cahoon White
In a word: boring. He literally repeats the same stories over and over. Same format for every chapter. I learned a lot in the first 2 chapters and nothing new after that.
Shoshana
I finally got all the way through this book after several attempts in graduate school. While Golden raises some important issues and illustrates many ways in which the rich, white students have every advantage in the college admissions process, I found he oversimplified and omitted important issues about why the process runs the way it does from the perspective of college admissions offices. I also found that he spent too much time blaming colleges and not enough time blaming the rich, white par...more
Nicola
The exposé at the heart of The Price of Admission is genuinely fascinating. That it’s possible to buy your way into a top university may be suspected by most of us, but Daniel Golden spells out exactly how it’s done – every year, by hundreds of parents.

All of this makes it a shame that Admission is such a dry read. You’ll really learn all that there is to learn from its introduction; the rest is just endless descriptions of the many wealthy kids who got into Harvard, Yale et al not (seemingly) o...more
Shannon
I chose to read this book simply due to my own frustration with academic bureaucracy. Golden details wealthy parents who essentially bribe institutions to accept their child(ren), celebrity privilege (Brown!), grand athletic scholarships for what are traditionally European American sports, and ethnic disparity in standards. I believe intellectual achievement should be valued more heavily in the admissions process and possibly in university cost. The book was far too long, and Golden doesn't real...more
Jon
While I definitely agreed with his position, I felt like Golden takes his argument too far and the book was a bit lengthy, to say the least. He uses the most extreme examples out there to make his case, often with a subtle personal bias added to it. Despite these journalistic shortcomings, The book is VERY well-researched and definitely sheds new light on an important issue.

As much as I agree with Daniel Golden's position, I felt the entire thing was very sensationalist and would not recommend t...more
Paul Hart
It would be far more interesting if the author took a comprehensive and more radical approach. Instead the structure primarily focuses on one university per chapter. At times the examples can be a little repetitive. The "okay, I get it" moment comes relatively earlier in the book and while the book's premise is disturbing, Golden doesn't leave the reader with a whole lot of motivation to do anything about the problem.
Scott Strumello
A close look at the reality behind the most elite colleges and universities in the U.S., and how well-established practices virtually ensure that preference is given to certain groups regardless of academic achievement. Perhaps what I liked most, however, was the fact that the book de-constructs the admissions processes with evidence-based documentation to support what many suspect anyway.
Laura
Written well, I was just bored. If you've been involved with, paid attention to, or grown up as a middle class kid of any race trying to get into college, none of this is new information and it's definitely not a surprise. I felt like I was reading a written version of what a lot of people already know. The case studies were interesting, though, and they added an extra layer of information.
Ed
The details of legacy and other preferences in college admissions mentioned in this book will not surprise anyone working in higher education, but the extent to which these practices are used at the best US colleges (and beyond) might. This is not a book to read if you're looking to retain any optimism about issues of access or meritocracy at the nation's better institutions.
Jean Marie Davis
I loved this book. It's so refreshing to read about the other side of affirmative action: the side that plays to the privileged. It's the other side of unfair admissions policies and Golden outlines legacies, Title IX, faculty brats and so forth. A total page-turner I blew through this in 3 days. Well done, Mr. Golden.
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