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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

3.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  340 Ratings  ·  57 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
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Crown
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88th out of 379 books — 289 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 885)
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Jun 02, 2012 Kathleen rated it really liked it
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.
As I write this, the book is about 8 years old, and as far as I can tell not one damned thing has changed policy-wise since the book has been written. Sigh. (Well other than the fact that Cooper Union is now charging tuition.) College is a business, y'all, and people with lots of money or power will edge out people without it.

There is plenty of dead-horse beating in this book. It's about six chapters of "See [this elite university]! They are one of the most selective in the nation, and the avera
Feb 19, 2011 Michelle rated it liked it
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
Jan 26, 2009 Jake rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 28, 2007 Lisa rated it liked it
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
Kevin Lee
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Vivian Cheung
Jun 29, 2015 Vivian Cheung rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-books
The book is a good balance of anecdotes and quantitative research. It is very eye-opening looking at how admissions play out for legacies, athletes, celebrities, Asian Americans, and faculty children. Some of the stats may be a little misleading. Legacies as well as the wealthy have inherent advantages in being able to afford tutors, activities, school visits, etc so you would always expect them to do better than the average applicant. I would have been interested in the legacy advantage on top ...more
Feb 09, 2009 Yofish rated it it was ok
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
Jul 16, 2012 Rob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
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
Jul 07, 2011 Hannah rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
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
May 30, 2013 Lisa rated it it was ok
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
Oct 05, 2011 Rebecca rated it liked it
Shelves: college
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
Nov 05, 2007 Jeanne rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Upper cru
Oct 05, 2008 Lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Oct 23, 2011 Tiffany rated it liked it
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
Sep 20, 2008 Chris rated it liked it  ·  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
Jun 24, 2007 Jeff rated it it was ok
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
Mar 28, 2013 Scott rated it it was amazing
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
Amy Wolf
Jan 03, 2014 Amy Wolf rated it really liked it
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
Dec 17, 2011 Ron rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 15, 2013 Amy rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: someone that needs a book to fall asleep to at night
Shelves: non-fiction, college
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
Oct 28, 2014 A. rated it did not like it
Lots of information. No conclusion. It is example after example of unfair college recruiting/acceptance policies. Okay. After the 3rd chapter you think maybe the author will do something different. Every chapter is the same topic with a small twist. I had really hoped it would be more interesting or have some insight. It is a lot of facts, not great reading or even helpful in any way. Kind of an expose with no conclusion. Sadly, one star.

The book The Gatekeepers is much, much, much, much...bette
Nate Stumpff
Nov 17, 2014 Nate Stumpff rated it liked it
Though very well researched and thought out, it rehashed its points a bit too much and ended up to much like a tick list of the many atrocities of the American collegiate system.
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
Feb 22, 2009 Tia rated it liked it
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.
Jan 27, 2011 Shoshana rated it liked it
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
Jun 18, 2013 Nicola rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, gift
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
Alev Dudek
Good book, but too many examples, maybe? Interesting analysis worth reading, at the end, however.
Célia Van Caemelbecke
Nov 03, 2015 Célia Van Caemelbecke marked it as to-read
I'm a french student and I need to do a presentation on the american universities. It helped a lot.
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  • The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College
  • A Class Apart: Prodigies, Pressure, and Passion Inside One of America's Best High Schools
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  • College Girls: Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Co-eds, Then and Now
  • Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students
  • Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More
  • Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses
  • College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be
  • Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage
  • One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All
  • Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That's Right for You
  • The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality
  • College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students

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