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The Gatekeepers

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  1,180 Ratings  ·  176 Reviews
From the fall of 1999 to the spring of 2000, New York Times education reporter Jacques Steinberg was given unparalleled access to an entire admissions season at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. In that time, he discovered just how difficult it could be to winnow down a list of nearly seven thousand applicants to seven hundred freshmen for the class of 2004.

Steinberg f
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 16th 2002 by Viking Adult
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Jan 18, 2014 Jean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this book grudgingly for work, but ended up really liking it. It shows admissions counselors for the subjective, tired, overworked, and (generally) genuinely caring people they are. Moreover, it shows college admissions for what it is: an equally subjective process in which any rule can operate OR be broken for any applicant at any time. Where you get in is not who you are or how good you are.
Guaranteed to make any college applicant highly anxious. Interesting, though.
Nov 27, 2007 Victoria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really good read. A year in the life of a college admissions counselor. I thought it was fascinating.
Mar 09, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer by: Mom
Fascinating behind the scenes look at the college admissions process. The author shadowed an admissions officer and had contact with several others during an entire admissions season. To me, it showed how arbitrary the whole system is, even though the admissions officers really put their hearts into it and fight for individual candidates.
Jul 08, 2008 Phoebe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're thinking about college or starting to apply then this is a book you must read. It gives a detailed account about the admissions process into a highly selective college. Our college counselor assigned this book as reading over the summer. I at that class meeting she continually warned us not to be afraid and that we were all capable of getting into a good school. When I read this book I wasn't afraid at all in fact was very interested in learning more about the college admissions proces ...more
Jun 06, 2016 Jake rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Steinberg creates almost an epic retelling of the struggles of an admissions officer in a highly selective college - Wesleyan in Middletown, Connecticut. As someone who has read admissions statistics since the age of 12, or more than half of my life, I was fascinated at the unflinching portrayal of the intensity of life in the collegiate admissions sphere. These men and women give their lives to their institution, pouring their hearts out to fight for high school students that deserve a chance t ...more
Oct 06, 2015 Becca rated it liked it
This is probably one of the most depressing books I've ever read. Although Steinberg seems to have no particular mission for this work, it is truly an expose in the arbitrary decisions that are made by college admissions committees.

Perhaps the saddest part is the coda, wherein two students who were accepted despite mediocre grades and SAT scores were unable to handle the academic work and had to take time off from college, whereas two students who were rejected despite great SAT scores soared a
Compelling piece of journalism that reinforces both how intensely rational and how essentially unpredictable the admissions process is at highly selective colleges. This book, by the NYTimes's chief education reporter, is full of revelations, sympathetic people, irritating imperfections in the system, and cringe-worthy glimpses into the sausagemaking of college classes. I recommend it highly.
Susan Flahive
Oct 10, 2009 Susan Flahive rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a "must read" if you really want to know about the college admissions process for the top schools. I love the way the story was told because it followed one admissions officer and several different high school prospects. What you realize is that the process is flawed, but eventually, everyone seems to find a place they belong...and that gives me hope!
Kressel Housman
Another reviewer said that this book is guaranteed to give high school kids a nervous breakdown, and I'm sure it's true because I'm over 40, and it's given me a mid-life crisis. Reading it brought me right back to my high school and college years, except that now with an adult's perspective, I can see all my mistakes more clearly than ever. I kid you not; I spent several sleepless nights obsessing about things like "If only I'd taken more AP classes," "If only I'd understood that the letter I go ...more
Devin Wallace
Jan 20, 2011 Devin Wallace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Gatekeepers is both an intelligent expose of the college admissions system and yet a frightening picture of what is, and will continue to be, a maddening system of partial judges. While it may paint a bleak picture of the higher education landscape (one that is becoming more exclusive every day), the Gatekeepers seeks to (and succeeds in) shed light on an admissions system plagued by too many applicants and too few admissions officers. At times, it will drive you insane to see students wtih ...more
Norma Scogin
Feb 12, 2011 Norma Scogin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I work in independent school admissions at a highly competitive school. The workload can be crazy and the decisions agonizing, but it pales in comparison to the admissions process at a place like Wesleyan University. The extremely long odds for almost all applicants to a school like this, much less Harvard or Yale, make me question the sanity of anyone who goes this route. This book should be required reading for all DC area high school juniors and their parents.
Angela Boord
Aug 27, 2011 Angela Boord rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at what goes on in the admissions office of a highly selective university.
Apr 17, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are in the market for books about college admissions, give yourself a treat and read this well researched, tastefully dramatized account of a year in the life of a dedicated, highly principled, woefully underpaid, college admissions officer. I found myself becoming almost as passionate as he was about his top picks, agreeing with some of his decisions, disagreeing with others, discovering in the process that my biases—and his—have more to do with personal past experience than actual evide ...more
Nov 19, 2012 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I usually try not to read work-related books for fun, but this account of the college admissions process really drew me in. I got so invested in all the characters (who are real people!) - the students anxious about their college prospects, the admissions officers forced to make tough choices that are anything but shallow (though they may seem arbitary to people on the other side), and the counselors strategically playing middleman.

It is so impressive that the author was able to get such an ins
Jan 27, 2013 Eve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recently read an article "The Myth of American Meritocracy" by Roy Unz in the American Conservative (not my usual choice of ideological approaches, but a great and provocative article about how Asian Americans are doing as applicants at highly selective colleges - not so well, it turns out). This article referenced the Gatekeepers and i remembered reading about it and deciding that it was something that I wanted to add to my "to read" list, but don't think I ever did so. But the article remind ...more
Christoffer Betting
The Gatekeepers, by Jacques Steinberg, was a very useful and informative account of the process a college goes through each year to ultimately decide who to accept into their institution. It gave some interesting insight as to what colleges primarily look for in students, and how they decide whether or not a person may be fitting for them. I could use this information for my own college applications, which is why I really liked all facets of the book. In addition to that, Steinberg made sure to ...more
May 15, 2016 Ilib4kids rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
378.161 STE
Unlike the normal college admission, which only have dry numbers and facts, This book provides more human detail about who those admission office are? how they make decisions? The detail account of their personal background and also detail analysis each students cases.Author shadowed a Wesleyan admission office for a year, offering offers behind-the-scenes look. Really let you peek inside the admission process.

This book mention
The big test : the secret history of the American merito
I'm very glad that I finished reading this only after I was done with the college application process.

Let me explain. Though I started this book nearly a year ago, when a friend lent this (among some other, college essay sample, books) to me, I found it somewhat less engaging than some of the other literature that I was already reading (including the essay samples--those were interesting). And so I decided to put The Gatekeepers off for a bit.

Eventually it got buried under piles of schoolwork an
Mar 14, 2014 Kristin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Gatekeepers" offers great insight into the admissions selection process at a competitive, liberal arts college in New England. Jacques Steinberg follows an admissions officer for a year to see the ins and outs of the decision making process, and comes away with a well written and well researched book that provides some wonderful insight.

To give us a better understanding of the choices that admissions officer Ralph Figueroa makes, “New York Times” education writer Steinberg follows six stude
It's 4.5 stars. I really liked this one. Despite having been published 12 years ago, it is still one of the most highly recommended books on the college admissions process. The author followed a Wesleyan admissions officer for a year in 1999. He weaves in profiles of several applicants and follows them through the admissions process. If you raise the SAT scores, it all seems just as true and relevant today.

The author does a great job explaining the backgrounds of the admissions officers, their
Laura McNeal
Mar 12, 2015 Laura McNeal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I haven't felt this way since I was pregnant for the first time and reading What to Expect When You're Expecting. Same desire to know/not know the gruesome possibilities and Warning Signs. Same mixture of helplessness and resolve in the teeth of great crushing cogs of machinery through which I, tiny scared thing, must somehow shove my baby to the other side. Very, very, very thorough research here, and incredibly full picture of the entire process from multiple points of view.
Zoe McSwain
Aug 26, 2016 Zoe McSwain rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't remember the last time a book intrigued me so much that I stayed up until past midnight to finish it (even on a weekend). The Gatekeepers has broken my dry spell!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am very passionate about higher education and more recently that passion has focused in on Admissions. So I may be a little biased when I say what I'm about to say- I think ANYONE with even the slightest interest in higher education should read this book. High school students looking to apply to
Oct 20, 2015 Patrick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Will Crawford
Dec 23, 2015 Will Crawford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book for anyone interested in how selective institutions (especially private colleges) select their students.
Ceili Clark
From the start this book was able to give thorough investigation into the college admission process. Whether is was about the college admissions officers, which i personally thought was irrelevant and boring, or the in depth process over accepting students. Steinberg created an entire character, Ralph, an admission officer, to show the challengers even the people who accept students go through.

I thought this writer's strategy of making an emotional character development was useful, but this may
Jul 29, 2016 Kyle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I wish I'd read this before applying to college, if only to make myself feel better about that one wait listing I got.
Beats me why I'm happily reading this genre of Elite-American-College-Process all of a sudden, except some kind of train wreck fascination. Yes, I'm in the midst of applying for PhDs, which is what led me here, but as I understand it, (I hope) that has little in common with the nonsensical rigamarole of grades, scores, activities, essays, affirmative action, secret handshakes and random idiosyncracy described as undergraduate addmissions. Steinberg does his damn best to paint very sympathetic po ...more
Oct 25, 2016 Kaz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As someone who is not familiar with the American college process and having a son in 11th grade in New York, I chose this as book number one to read on college admissions, a little late perhaps.

I really enjoyed following the not so straight and narrow academic lives of the high school students who participated in this book, their own thought processes, anxieties and decisions.

This is a well written and engaging book, I felt very connected to Ralph and his own journey as a college admission offi
Nancy Kroneberger
At first, I really liked this book, and thought it was going to be extremely helpful. I have a daughter who is a senior in high school, and a son who is a freshmen in high school. It DID give a behind-the-scenes-kind of look at the college admissions process, but mostly in the upper elite and competitive schools (Wesleyan, Swarthmore, Harvard, Cornell, Yale, Brown, etc), with students applying with very high SAT scores, very good grades, many talents, and much HS involvement. But that does not a ...more
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Jacques Steinberg is the author of The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College, a New York Times-best seller. He has been a staff reporter for The New York Times for more than two decades, and is currently a national education correspondent for the paper. Steinberg also moderates The Choice, the Times college admissions blog, which he created for the paper in spring 2009. H ...more
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