San Francisco Magazine

Robin Mamlet and Christine VanDeVelde: College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step (Crown Books) The question isn't quite as old as the Sphinx's riddle, but many high school seniors consider it just as baffling: How do I get into college? Or, for anxious parents: How do I get my child into the right college? If the media storm about admissions that blows through our nation every fall is any indicator of public opinion, the "right" colleges are the 15 most hyperselective ones. For some families, failing to crack this puzzle is tantamount to forfeiting the kids' future happiness. Enter Mamlet, a former dean of admissions at Stanford, Bay Area journalist VanDeVelde, and their riddle-free guide, which breaks down the application process into 21 chapters of advice -- on preparing for the SAT/ACT tests, writing the essay, applying for aid, and thanking teachers for their recs. Filled with words of wisdom from more than 50 admissions deans (at Stanford, the UCs, Harvey Mudd, and more) and from high school counselors (including those at Peninsula mainstays Menlo-Atherton and Castilleja), the book avoids all strategems for shoehorning your child into Harvard. Instead, it shows us how to treat the app process as a chance for self-reflection, culminating in acceptance to a school that's an authentic fit. Some of this advice may start parent-offspring fights (for example, students in the 9th and 10th grades are advised to "spend a good dose of time daydreaming"). But that may be what a painstakingly honest guide on this loaded topic has to do.     A- Eli Wolfe

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