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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is an eye-opening recounting of the college hunt of a diverse group of seniors at Oyster Bay High School, and how the dreams of the kids meet the reality of the admissions process. The key is the incredible work and talent of their counselor, Gwyeth Smith, Jr., a real joy to watch in action. Mr. Marcus gives the type of moving, accurate portrayal that can only come from "living with" the participants and feeling what they felt. Their stories are told so well that you cannot help but root for the kids as the decisions come in.

Apart from a wonderful, realistic story, the book really gets it right when it focuses on what should be the message of parents and counselors everywhere. The real accomplishment in getting into college comes from finding the right fit for the student. It's not just about prestige or academic reputation or exclusivity. It takes someone who cares, someone who takes time to know the students in ways that test scores and class rank cannot. Where will they thrive as young adults beginning their journey?

Parents, read this book! If you aren't getting this kind of approach from your counselor, speak up. Students, read this book! It's not about the "best" school you can get into or where your friends are going, it's about learning what matters to you. May you find a counselor as interested in your life as Mr. Smith is with his students. It matters, but what matters most is what you put into this stage of your life.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Overall, a very good book on college admissions. (Oyster Bay HS, North Shore Long Island. Senior Class size: a bit over 100)

Strengths: The author embedded himself in the school. The author's focus goes beyond the very top students and includes above-average to average students (compare: Fat Envelope frenzy). The guidance counselor is indeed quite special, and is that rare public school counselor who knows what he is doing. (Compare him with the long-time counselor at the Collegiate School profiled in the NYT). The author acknowledges Jacques Steinberg's book Gatekeepers, and check out the blue cover. Writing is smooth. Well worth $17.

Weakness: Did not care for the limp font. What was Penguin production dept thinking?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Even though this is not an advice book, it contains so many gems to help high school students through the college application process.

This book was very quick reading because, to me, this is a fascinating subject. The main character in this book, Smitty, had had a long career in the business of getting kids into colleges, but he did even more....he tried to get them to find themselves and find the right college for them. He conducted a full semester essay-writing class where the students polished and re-wrote their essays. Very interesting.

After the applications were all done in January, he brought in a banker to explain credit cards and checking accounts to them, taught them basics of cooking, and also about laundry. He had heard too many stories over the years (from grads) to assume that the kids knew these skills.

This was in a public school in Oyster Bay, NY. My experience with public-school HS guidance counselors is that most of their time and effort goes into the kids with problems (or troublemakers), with little time left over for actual "guidance" ---let alone doing what this guy did.

If you have any interest in this topic, or a child getting ready for the college application process, I would highly recommend this book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am beginning the college search with my second child. Having survived it once, I wish that I had had this book 2 years ago! This is an excellent source of information and advice presented in an informal, easy to read manner. It should be mandatory reading for all Juniors, Seniors and their parents!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Enjoyed following the paths of the students and appreciated learning how to write an essay capable of raising an eyebrow from the admissions staff.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Book was amazing! Gwyeth Smith is the type of guidance counselor that I can only hope to be! Really enjoyed it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Definitely a worthwhile read for any parent or college applicant. Marcus does an excellent job of portraying a variety of kids and their often agonizing journey to getting into the college of their choice. I've dealt with this stuff a lot (as the parent of two kids who have gone through such a journey), and Marcus' treatment of the issues is both evocative and inspiring. I learned a lot. He covers a wide range of schools that are being considered and then applied to by the "characters" in his book, and shows well how it's a juggling of priorities, desires, pressures, and even whimsical preferences that determine where a kid decides to apply and then attend. Incredibly realistic and insightful.

Only downside: it was also a bit depressing, in that it describes a truly gifted guidance counselor. Not only did I not experience anything close to such a counselor when I was applying to college, it's totally opposite what I've seen at my children's high school, where the counselors are at best well-meaning bureaucrats, with little passion or drive to go the extra mile for kids.

Otherwise, I highly recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This was a great book for students and parents alike. What I liked best about it was that it followed the advice Smitty, the guidance counselor, gave his students in the College Essay class: show, don't tell. The author weaves important advice and recommendations in his engaging story so his points are clearly made and Smitty's persona comes alive (thus proving his point on the power of the "show don't tell" approach). Read this book optimally in the early High School years or even sooner so you can strategize.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
A moving series of stories focused on the perspective of a very dedicated counselor who understands that finding the right college and discovering yourself is the most important thing to focus on in this extremely stressful time. I think this should be must reading for all college bound high school seniors and their parents.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
As a mentor of high school juniors and seniors I found the book to be full of little gems that I will refer to in the future. It interested me to know that kids on the east coast and kids in Texas face the same confusing array of decisions in their quest for the "right" career, major and college.
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