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The Gatekeepers : Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,254 Ratings  ·  189 Reviews
In the fall of 1999, New York Times education reporter Jacques Steinberg was given an unprecedented opportunity to observe the admissions process at prestigious Wesleyan University. Over the course of nearly a year, Steinberg accompanied admissions officer Ralph Figueroa on a tour to assess and recruit the most promising students in the country. The Gatekeepers follows a d ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 29th 2003 by Penguin Group USA (first published September 16th 2002)
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Kressel Housman
Dec 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 10, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
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
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Devin Wallace
Jan 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Really good read. A year in the life of a college admissions counselor. I thought it was fascinating.
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
"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
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
Nov 12, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Christoffer Betting
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Laura McNeal
Mar 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Norma Scogin
Feb 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
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 rated it it was amazing
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!
Aug 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A really interesting non-fiction book about the admissions process at an "ivy league light" instituion. It follows an admission officer on his recruitment trips and the process in general. Reads like a novel.
Aug 20, 2007 rated it liked it
Guaranteed to make any college applicant highly anxious. Interesting, though.
Will Crawford
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great book for anyone interested in how selective institutions (especially private colleges) select their students.
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
Angela Boord
Aug 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at what goes on in the admissions office of a highly selective university.
Oct 25, 2016 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
Alton Motobu
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Inside look at the college admissions process through the eyes of an admissions officer at Wesleyan University (CT) who analyzes six applicants from across the US and shows us how they are evaluated, what qualities the college looks for, and who eventually gets in. Very interesting how admissions people work, how they interact with high school counselors, and how the students perceive what the colleges want from them. Excellent for those who want to know what goes on in the college admissions pr ...more
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An immersive look at the officers and students involved in the admissions process at Wesleyan for the Class of 2004. The Gatekeepers is a rare and unvarnished entrance into a process and system that consumes the lives of families of high school students. Well worth the read.
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 24, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a currently somewhat dated but still relevant account of how the admissions committee at Wesleyan University operated during 1999-2000 in order to admit students for the Class of 2004. The years between 2000 and around 2006/2007 represented the largest college admissions boom in US history up until that time, so in some ways this book is very relevant even today. Higher education has also been very slow to change in light of the economic and technological changes to society since then, s ...more
Zoe McSwain
Sep 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 26, 2013 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
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Aug 03, 2013 rated it liked it
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
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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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