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3.36  ·  Rating details ·  6,587 ratings  ·  1,101 reviews
"Admissions. Admission. Aren't there two sides to the word? And two opposing sides...It's what we let in, but it's also what we let out."

For years, 38-year-old Portia Nathan has avoided the past, hiding behind her busy (and sometimes punishing) career as a Princeton University admissions officer and her dependable domestic life. Her reluctance to confront the truth is
Hardcover, 452 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2009)
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Average rating 3.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,587 ratings  ·  1,101 reviews

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Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture, american, jewish
The Neverland Cult

Korelitz never disappoints. She writes what she knows about. And she writes about it well. In this case she writes about the insanely competitive process of getting admission to Princeton University, where she did work at one time in the Admission (no 's', thus creating an interesting sub-plot) Office.

Korelitz's raw material is the young people who want to become undergraduate members of the institution, and their parents who are prepared to mortgage their own lives to allow i
Apr 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Pretty much everyone.
Loved/Terrified by this passage:

"She knew that they were soft-centered, emotional beings wrapped in a terrified carapace, that even though they might appear rational and collected on paper, so focused that you wanted to marvel at their promise and maturity, they were lurching, turbulent muddles of conflict in their three-dimensional lives [...:] She knew that the creative ones were desperately afraid they were talentless, and the intellectuals deeply suspected they weren't brilliant, and that ev
Nov 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
I had heard good things about Admission before setting out to read it. Having completed it now, I just can't understand why it has received any good press whatsoever! The author spent a few years reading applications at Princeton University, and her novel circles around the admissions process at Princeton and in the Ivy League generally. It has not been so many years since I was an Ivy applicant, so I can certainly appreciate the "inside" look into the admissions process and the tremendous chore ...more
Tiny Pants
Jun 28, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 01, 2013 rated it liked it
For people who like: Ivy League stuff, snobby stuff, to debate about the haves and have nots, vaguely smutty chick lit with some high mindedness, good story-telling

Okay now I know. I have to put down something about the book immediately after I read it or else malaise sets in. I've felt really lazy these days, also super busy, and, recently, super sick. So today I took a sick day and read Admission, which is tangentially related to work so it didn't feel like I took the day off. I also remembere
Hannah Notess
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I probably enjoyed this book disproportionately. Yes, I picked it up because I knew it had been made into a movie with Tina Fey and because the author is married to Paul Muldoon who I met once and was nice.

But I love a good academic novel, and it was especially refreshing to read one that didn't revolve around the tired professor-student romance trope. The plot moved in ways I didn't expect, and I liked how the story was interwoven with the pleading Greek chorus of applicants, their distinct an
Shannon Wells
This book had an interesting premise, and I was looking for it as soon as I heard about it. But, it took way too long to get into the main plot, and at times it slogged through.... I found myself really having to push myself to finish; liked it well enough to want to see how it ended, but not enough to really be interested. Does that make sense?

As someone really interested in higher education -- and as someone with advanced degrees who thought they would be working in the university system -- I
Sep 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book was a nice find. Portia is partnered, childless, 40ish, long-time admissions officer at Princeton. She's satisfied with her life, that is, when she is not holding it up against her mother's values and standards. Many will relate to the tension between Portia and her mother Susannah (an old-school burn-the-bra feminist) and how mom's influence and expectations drive Portia's life choices. Ultimately, this is a book about the pursuit of an authentic life and how we learn to be true and f ...more
Morninglight Mama
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The plainish cover didn't draw me in, but by the end of the first page, I was right there with Portia, and I didn't want to close the book for one second. It's an understatement to say that I was impressed by the writing, as it flowed so well and kept a constant feeling of anticipation. Even when Portia can't see through the fog that has become her life, I wanted to read as quickly as I could to stay right by her side. It's more than a simple story of redemption or a life taking on a new directi ...more
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Insightful, moving & funny. A smart book about a fascinating subject (the inner workings of an ivy league admissions office) & about one woman whose seemingly comfortable life is haunted by admissions of a very different kind --admissions as in revealed secrets. Have not seen the film based on this book but the trailer makes it look like a stupid rom-com. This book is not that at all. Recommended to readers who appreciate a good story told with a high level of literary skill. ...more
Lisa Vegan
This was a thoroughly enjoyable book to read. The author has a very engaging writing style and tells a story that I found riveting. (I now want to check her other books. The other plots don’t look as interesting to me, but she’s such a good writer I might try another of her books.)

The characters are likeable and understandable and authentic seeming people. One third the way through the book I could see a million miles away what was coming, but that did not at all diminish the pleasure I got whil
Jul 27, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Jean Hanff Korelitz is quickly becoming my favorite author, and this is the second of her books that I have devoured at a break-neck pace. It hasn't been long since I applied to a selective (albeit second tier) institution and anxiously awaited word from the committee. Even less time has passed since my experience of coup de foudre and the resulting fallout. Needless to say, there is much for me to relate to in this novel.This book gave me much to think about: the duel definitions of "admission, ...more
Jun 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this novel about a Yale admissions officer newly promoted to the New England region where she grew up. Portia Nathan, age 38 and coasting along in her job and relationship, bumps into her past in several ways as she navigates the highways and byways of Vermont and New Hampshire.

Each chapter is cleverly prefaced with an excerpt from a potential student's college essay. As Portia visits a variety of prep schools, she has a chance not just to talk about Yale, but to expound on high
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
This is the story of Portia, an admission officer at Princeton University. That pretty much sums up the plot. She reads admission applications, visits high schools, reads more applications, reads more applications, reads more applications, rinse and repeat. Such is the first 200 pages of this book. Occasionally she argues with her mother, ponders her moderately satisfying relationship of 16 years and reads more applications. She meets someone she went to school with, has a one night stand and re ...more
May 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Interesting read, with lots of detail, about life as an ivy league college (Princeton) addmissions "reader". In the book, the main character mentions how former readers write memoirs about their experiences. This is a fiction take on the subject and the entire time, I kept thinking "this would have been better as a memoir or non-fiction". The author obviously wants to make certain points about the college admissions process, which means her character often breaks out into speeches that go on for ...more
Patty Bloomfield
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! I had no idea what it was when I picked it up at the library and found myself absorbed by the world of admissions to Ivy League universities (in this case, Princeton) as well as the personal story which ran parallel to the admissions season. It was a bit scary to read about how tough it is to get into one of the top schools these days (especially as a parent of a 12 year-old) but I found it fascinating. And the snippets of applications which accompanied each chapter added to t ...more
Feb 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't super into the movie adaptation, but I really enjoyed this book. I never thought about the admissions process; it didn't really cross my mind that a human person read my application and deemed me worthy of Smith. Really liked the long descriptions of different kids applying, and the little blurbs from pretend application essays that were before each chapter. While the book was pretty dramatic, it was also incredibly thoughtful and heartfelt in the way it dealt with that drama.
Jun 03, 2009 rated it liked it
The overwhelming sense I had when reading this book, a discourse on the trials of a woman who serves as gatekeeper at Princeton through her work in the admissions office, is that it had the quality of a televeision series - a lot of panoramic views without any real depth.
This work traces the emotional turmoil that Portia, reader of applications faces, inside and outside of her office as she deals with her various emotional distractions. While it is a smartly written novel in that the language is
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Just finished reading Admission, all 634 pages, about Portia, a 38 year old admission officer, at Princeton in a 16 year relationship with Mark, a professor at the same University.

This is an extremely well written, intelligent, at times fascinating and elegant novel. I could not put it down. I can easily recommend it to anyone wishing to pass a couple of pleasant days reading about an entrancing heroine whose life goes through a traumatic upheaval, both personally and work based. Her insights a
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Right place/right time. I picked this novel about an admissions officer at Princeton off the "Library Staff Favorites" shelf, and read it in a day because I've been trying to stay in the ZONE with writing college recommendations for high school juniors. So I considered it research, not procrastination. Ha.

I loved the intimate glimpse into the office of admissions and the struggle that application readers go through as they reject incredible kids. Who knew that the climax of a novel could revolv
Jun 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Fabulous novel. The layers are wonderful, the writing crisp, only a few typographical errors toward the end. She's a good story-teller and has a way of weaving complex bits of information into short paragraphs. Also, I had no idea admissions officers worked so hard to make decisions; in the end though, it's all still a crapshoot.
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
The characters and themes seem borrowed or recycled from other books of hers. Still a brilliant author and a brilliant book.
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the third book by Jean Hanff Korelitz that I have read, and it will not be the last!! I think in many ways I could relate to and understand the main character. It was written so well. Not hard to understand, it grabbed my attention, and not too too many characters. Sometimes just being inundated with characters and having to literally write a family tree...can be a real turn-off for me. You will be sorry if you let this one go!!!
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This book is wonderful. I’m not quite convinced that the movie will be equally amazing, or even slightly amazing, but anyone even contemplating seeing the movie should read the book first. Actually, read it right now. I’m not kidding.

By the time I reached page 52 of Admission, I was digging in my purse for my favorite pen (and thanking the PR folk at Grand Central Publishing for sending me a paper copy of the book, enabling me to feel the ext
Jim Leckband
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you consider this book as only a view into the admissions process of an Ivy League college, then you are missing out. Korelitz of course tackles all the issues involved with that sausage making, but I think she uses the admissions process to explore some eternal themes that authors and philosophers have thought and written about forever. Namely, fate vs. free will, predestination vs. good works, self vs. society, and finally guilt and acceptance (or admission).

Now, if an author is going to ha
Admission found its way to my to-read list through my discovering the movie version. Being the book-before-movie person, that - reading first - was exactly what I did. And now I'm not sure I want to watch anymore, even though the film has Nat Wolff and Tina Fey (for me, only in that order, but never mind) in it, who got me into wanting to see it in the first place. The kind of confusion happens as a result of either of two situations: the reading experience having been so awful I want to forget ...more
Avid Reader
Apr 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Definitely this season's must read for the parents of college bound students. Sense of humor or ironic detachment suggested.

Should Admission have been titled Admissions? I think so. But the conceit behind the title refers to Princeton University’s Admission Office. The nuances of “Admission Office” vs. “Admissions” and “College of Art and Science” versus “Arts and Sciences” or even “Arts and Science” may be distinctions too fine for most of us but careful readers may find these disagreements abs
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it

Portia Nathan, the protagonist of this book, is a Princeton University recruitment and admissions officer. She is a flawed, but likeable human being who is well developed and multidementional. Portia goes on a recruiting trip and, at Deerfield Academy, meets an old classmate from Dartmouth, with whom she has a one night stand. That was a bit of a stretch for me. It's not as if he was a long lost love for whom she had been pining for years. In fact, she could not remember him.
She goes from Deerfi
Jenn Tat
Jan 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Portia is a Princeton admissions officer who is consumed and defined by her work. She has devoted years to selecting the nation’s best and brightest until the day when she is forced to confront a remnant of her past in a life-changing decision.

There are two sides to the story in Admission, cleverly reflecting the two opposing definitions of the word itself. The selection process for applicants was enlightening (especially at this point in my life) and founded on years of Korelitz’ experience as
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“There is a sound to waiting. It sounds like held breath pounding its fists against the walls of the lung, damp and muffled beats.” 9 likes
“All ghost stories come to this, she understood. All ghost stories end in one of two ways: You are dead or I am dead. If people only understood this, Portia thought, they would never be frightened, they would only need to ask themselves, Who among us has died?

And then she occurred to her that she was the ghost in her story. She had spent years haunting her own life, without ever noticing.”
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