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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times Notable Book of 2020

From award-winning higher education journalist and New York Times best-selling author Jeffrey Selingo comes a revealing look from inside the admissions office - one that identifies surprising strategies that will aid in the college search. 

Getting into a top-ranked college has never seemed more impossible, with acceptance rates at some elite universities dipping into the single digits. In Who Gets in and Why, journalist and higher education expert Jeffrey Selingo dispels entrenched notions of how to compete and win at the admissions game and reveals that teenagers and parents have much to gain by broadening their notion of what qualifies as a "good college". Hint: It's not all about the sticker on the car window.

Selingo, who was embedded in three different admissions offices - a selective private university, a leading liberal arts college, and a flagship public campus - closely observed gatekeepers as they made their often agonizing and sometimes life-changing decisions. He also followed select students and their parents, and he traveled around the country meeting with high school counselors, marketers, behind-the-scenes consultants, and college rankers.

While many have long believed that admissions is merit-based, rewarding the best students, Who Gets in and Why presents a more complicated truth, showing that "who gets in" is frequently more about the college's agenda than the applicant. In a world where thousands of equally qualified students vie for a fixed number of spots at elite institutions, admissions officers often make split-second decisions based on a variety of factors - like diversity, money, and, ultimately, whether a student will enroll if accepted.

One of the most insightful books ever about "getting in" and what higher education has become, Who Gets in and Why not only provides an usually intimate look at how admissions decisions get made, but guides prospective students on how to honestly assess their strengths and match with the schools that will best serve their interests.

©2020 Jeff Selingo. All rights reserved. (P)2020 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

What listeners say about Who Gets in and Why

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    5 out of 5 stars

A must-read for anyone applying to college

This book is the single most illuminating guide to the admissions process, and how to handle it with grace and wisdom as an applicant/applicant's family, that I have ever encountered. I vouch for this as someone who has seen many sides of the world of higher education: dream schools, highly-ranked liberal arts colleges, and second-tier state schools. I taught at "buyer" schools and "sellers." I have worked in admissions some, too. This book really tells you how admissions operate. It will answer your questions about getting in (there is no magical formula, but there are significant insights). More important, it will challenge your priorities. The emphasis on the application process as one of growth is excellent. Also, it is so true that you get out of college what you put in, and that you can get as much out of an education at a seller school as you would at a buyer. Do visit the college scorecard site to get a sense of this in generic facts and figures, some of whichdo challenge a few of the book's arguments. Turns out my alma mater, an Ivy, generally costs the same as the second-tier school where I later taught brilliant students who assumed I was rich. Surprise: I wasn't. Interestingly, andmore in line with what the author reports, the top 75% of grads from my second-tier state school make more money than do the top 75% from the highly-ranked liberal arts college where I also taught. Things are not always as they seem.

4 people found this helpful

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Admissions has changed since you went to college

I am a Gen-X parent with 3 teenage sons, the oldest of which is now a freshman in college. Whatever knowledge you have of your admissions process is no longer relevant. Having gone through the process I can tell friends how it has changed. Jeff explains WHY it has changed and WHAT to do about it. He also gives advice on what to prioritize because your child can't do everything. Put down the U.S. News rankings and read this instead. Highly recommended.

3 people found this helpful

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Fascinating, with real information

If you are interested in the topic, this book is the audio equivalent of a page turner. Spot on, with critical info every family with a high schooler should know.

3 people found this helpful

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Peeling back the curtain

As a college counselor working at a private school, it was refreshing to know that this information is available to parents. So much is revealed in this book that really helps parents and students understand the complexity and subjectivity of the admissions process. Realizing that they have very little control over the final decisions that are made should be freeing to those applying to college to present themselves as best they can and hope for the best. No one "deserves" admission to a highly selective college, and this book explains who gets in and why! I will gladly recommend this book to the parents I work with so they can set appropriate expectations for their children, and hopefully make adjustments in their plans accordingly!

2 people found this helpful

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History, not data you can use

I have now listened to three hours of this audiobook. A total waste of my time. It’s all about history and anecdotal data from individuals that author found. Nothing concrete no structure to the process. Parents want data that will help them understand and navigate the current college process, not a verbose rendition of a 1970s and 80s history lesson. Very disappointed in the waste of my purchase

1 person found this helpful

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Eye-opening

This book was eye-opening and mind-boggling! Nicely written and narrated, and so very useful.

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thumbs up

a must read/listen for HS students heading to college or parents of those students. I wish I found it sooner.

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wonderful insight on the admissions process!

A must read for all students and parents going through the admissions process. This book helped us to make sense of it all and focus on what matters.

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A must-read if your kid is applying to college

This book should have been called "How screwed up the admission system is, and why your kid is f---ed," but I suspect that wouldn't sell as well. definitely a must-read for anyone whose kids are applying to college. It gives you an unparalleled fly-on-the-wall view of the process.

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  • BK
  • 09-05-21

Extremely informative

I bought this book and decided to get the audio version to listen to while on the subway. My daughter is a rising senior and we started touring colleges over the summer. This book gives
detailed information and valuable advice on the admissions process. I highly recommended.