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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2012
Hernandez doesn't coddle up to the reader. She doesn't give false hope, or outline strategies that may have worked for someone whose extreme luck got them on the waiting list for Princeton. No, she gives the cold reality, and explains to the reader quite descriptively the process in which a thousand students are selected from tens of thousands.

The reason I say that it's more of a litmus test is that most readers go into this book thinking that ANYONE could follow the pages step by step, checking off each word of advice, and then finding a big, thick envelope waiting for them in their mailboxes with a thrilling offer of admission. They quickly learn, however, that not everyone is Ivy League material, at least at the age of 17-18. No one likes to hear that their child or they themselves are limited, but believe me, having gone through the college admission process, it's instrumental for one to have a clear understanding of what is doable and what isn't. Hernandez does an excellent job of describing what sort of student one is (or one has the capability of), and then shows that the obvious Ivy League-level kids stand a great chance of getting in, as is. She then describes little tricks and strategies for these kids to prepare their applications accordingly, what not to say in an interview, being one's self in the personal essay, and so forth. In other words, she shows the student how NOT to mess up their application.

For those who aren't necessarily Ivy League bound but still very intelligent and hard working, the author gives advice on how to maximize such a person's profile and luck so that the chance of getting noticed by an Ivy League admissions officer increases significantly, though not necessarily immensely.

Most importantly, the author shows that intelligence does not necessarily mean that one is suited for the Ivy league schools; one can be very smart but still go unnoticed to the admissions officers, and one can be very noticeable to the admissions officers but still fail academically. She explains in the book, and I would have to agree with her, that the term "Ivy league" carries a very strong image (and in some cases, stigma) that needs to be taken with a large grain of salt.

If you believe your child (or yourself, depending on who's reading the book) is Ivy league material, then this book will show you how to not mess up your chances of a Harvard admission. However, if you are unsure of how well your child can do, taking advice from such a well respected and resourceful author can help push your chances up, or at least maximize the effectiveness of the college application- which will come in handy when applying to ALL colleges.

I never really thought I was Harvard material, to be honest, but after reading this book, I was able to tailor my college application to land an admission and nearly a full ride to one of the nation's most rigorous and prestigious liberal arts colleges, Grinnell College. "A" is for admission, but I'd give an "A" for the quality of this book.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2012
My daughter and I had just attended our first college info session the weekend before purchasing this book. I could hear so much of what the admissions officer said echoed in this book but it wasn't until reading the book that I really understood what the admissions officer was saying. The book was like a rollercoaster ride - okay we're covered there; oops, we might be in trouble here; omg we definitely missed the boat on that one! Since reading the book we've attended 5 other college info sessions. 3 were private ivy colleges and 2 were "ivy type" public colleges. The most consistent messages - matching what was stated in the book - was that even more than the high scores on the SAT and ACT, the schools were looking for potential students who would bring something special to the table - a special inner drive that is such a part of their makeup that anyone describing them would likely touch on it. The admissions officers also touched on their quest for diversity in the student body although none actually admitted to flagging or coding the student files. I can see from many of the communications that we are receiving from these schools (among others) that they are indeed targeting specific audiences in their diversity recruiting efforts. With regards to how the applications are reviewed by assigned officers first and then either accepted right off the bat or put forward to a committee for further evaluation and consideration - most of the schools did acknowledge that process. Most of them did actually review physical files. Interestingly enough, UC Berkeley strives to be fully electronic. They do not want paper of any type.
Anyway, this book was a fast read and definitely helped me to decipher what the admissions officers were really saying and helped in determining how my daughter needs to present herself in Essays and such. Too late for the extra-curricular boost but she's exhibited the love of learning that they look for in the transcripts.
This book is a must read - preferably while your student is in 9th grade - but still provides some last chance advice if you're just stepping into the reality of college admissions as a rising senior.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2010
I checked online through several college sites to find a book that gives a concise, informative review of the admissions process. This is the title that kept coming up. "A is for Admission" has the details that flesh out the generalized articles in annual editions of U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Colleges". Now the system actually makes sense to me, and the book is an easy read. My son just signed up for 9th grade and I wondered if I was starting too early, but after reading the book I believe middle school is the best time to start. The way I see it--our kids tell us their goals and we give them the support they need to reach those goals. This book helped me as a parent to better understand how to support my son. I would love to see a book of this quality that described the admission procedures at California's top universities and colleges.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2012
Very interesting read...If you're at all curious about the college application process at the Ivy level, especially as it relates to Asians, then you'll appreciate the author's as she tells it like it is. Much appreciated, Dr. Hernandez.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2012
I definitely appreciated this candid look at the admissions process of the Ivy League, and actually found it rather reassuring- Hernandez goes a good job of dispelling the paranoid rumors that have been spreading around my high school, (like, we'll be at a disadvantage because of our state, etc) and also provides the much-desired AI formula. However, I have a feeling that as admissions standards are rising, the formula has lost accuracy. For example, when I plugged in my scores and GPA, I came out as slightly above average for accepted Dartmouth students. I know for a fact that this has changed! My only reservation at giving the full five stars is that I don't believe Hernandez fufilled her promise of providing tricks to raise your AI.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2012
Fabulous book to get a refreshing perspective on the college application process. It is so helpful to hear firsthand from an ex-admissions officer how the process truly works. Great to hear a dissemination of the hows and whys of college acceptances.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2014
This informative book was a joy to read. It was unique among the admissions books in that it described in detail exactly what goes on in an admissions office. The book contained essential information that was available nowhere else. For anyone applying to highly selective colleges, this book is a must read. My personal belief is that reading admissions books prior to applying to college shows both interest and responsibility and if I were an admissions counselor, I would go so far as to list books like these on my college admissions page.

With 37,000 high schools in the United States, there are not enough Ivy League slots for every valedictorian/salutatorian in the country. In talking with a few top students from my area, I discovered that many of them did not realize they could gain an advantage from reading a few college admissions books and thus, the competitive edge goes to those who do read the books.

While reading these books as late as three months before an application due date is certainly still beneficial, it is best for parents to browse them while their children are young. Parents are creating an intellectual structure and if the foundation is not built correctly, the rest will crumble. For instance, the author stresses that the Ivy League schools seek children with a love of learning and not dutiful, "A" seeking, grind behavior. If parents don't realize this on their own, it's better that they read it in a book and give their kids the correct start than to turn their children into grinds. It's important that children learn creativity, leadership and critical thinking skills and oftentimes the parents are the only people in the child's world who can tell the child how important these skills are and who can teach these skills. Additionally, children should develop passions and pursue those passions and be unique rather than LMO "like many others."

The criteria for admissions has been continually shifting upwards and I'm not certain that this book reflects that. So, the description of an acceptable candidate in this book comes across like what I may be seeing for colleges ranked below the Ivies. As long as the reader is aware of this, it isn't a problem since the author describes the complete range of applicants and yours only has to aim higher than what is indicated as acceptable in this book.

As an example of this shift, when my son was a freshman in high school, I told him that he needed a 3.5 or above to get into the school of his choice. When it came time to apply, the average acceptable GPA was listed as 3.7 and for his class, the average turned out to be a 3.8. As he begins his third year of college, I'm hearing that a 4.0 is the average GPA for entering freshmen.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2014
The book is fine, but a bit outdated. It belongs to the age when paper based apps were still prevalent.

Also, doesn't really help on essays, activity lists, etc, that much. Just a general view on the application process.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This is a very mild exposé, and that's an excellent quality for a exposé to possess. Hernandez reveals only the information critically relevant to her audience--ambitious students and families concerned about the rising competition surrounding top school admissions. This book is a collection of data and arguments centered on that data, as well as detailed memoranda of admissions office protocol. It lacks the juicy details about just how bitter, sarcastic or biased we might imagine an overworked office to be. This book discusses the procedure, not the personality, of Dartmouth's admissions office. Hernandez could have written a much glossier book filled with redacted anecdotes about this or that counselor; she chose not to. This is a balanced and insightful perspective on the present realities of the committee behind the curtain. I highly recommend.
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on July 11, 2012
This book provided insightful and detailed advice while written concisely. This book is not like many others written on the same topic(a rehash of the same old we already know). It gets to the point. The book provides advice I did not find elsewhere and says it clearly and without going on and on saying the same thing (sorry, but it drives me nuts when writers think if there point was important the first time they state it...it will be much more important if they say it fifteen times.). Worth the time and money.
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