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Harvard Schmarvard: Getting Beyond the Ivy League to the College That Is Best for You Paperback – March 11, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; 1 edition (March 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761536957
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761536956
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.2 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #557,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for Harvard Schmarvard:
"This book gives us a welcome and helpful way of looking at college and university rankings. Jay Mathews offers refreshing insights into the college admissions process and makes the important point that getting into the 'best' college is less important than choosing the college that brings out the best in every student." — Richard W. Riley, former U.S. Secretary of Education
"In a day when college-bound students are inundated with recruitment material and confusing claims of merit, Jay Mathews provides important guidance to help families navigate the college selection and application process." — William J. Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education
"Harvard Schmarvard is a smart, contrarian perspective on the pressure-filled college admissions process, by one of the country's best education writers. It's combination of advice, research, wit, and first-person tales from the frontlines deserves to be read by every high school student and every parent." — David A. Kaplan, senior editor, Newsweek
"There may be a better book on college admissions than Mathews', but I don't know what it is. Among overanxious candidates and parents—including me—nothing is more important than demolishing the silly idea that not getting into Harvard (or Duke, Stanford, or some other 'prestige' school) is a life-ending experience. Mathews does this and provides an immense amount of useful information about tests, guidance counselors, college selection, and early admissions. The book has the added advantage of being compulsively readable." — Robert J. Samuelson, Newsweek columnist
"Jay Mathews gets it. He puts into perspective what has become an increasingly out-of-control college admissions process. Any family embarking on this path will benefit from this guide." — Seppy Basili, coauthor, The Unofficial, Biased Guide to the 320 Most Interesting Colleges
"This book will free teens and parents from that stupid myth that college quality is measured by selectivity or name. A badly needed public service that lays bare the rankings fraud and the complicity of colleges in it." — Loren Pope, author, Colleges That Change Lives
"It would be great if all college-bound students read this book; for their parents it should be mandatory. I don't agree with every tip that Jay Mathews offers, but on the whole his is a wonderful voice of sanity on a subject that has driven much of America nuts." — James Fallows, The Atlantic Monthly
"Harvard Schmarvard demystifies and demythologizes the college selection process. Jay Mathews gives high school seniors and their parents a fresh and challenging perspective to college admissions that flies in the face of 'street wisdom' and the college rating guides." — Greg Feldmeth, assistant headmaster, Polytechnic School
"Finally, a resource for all college-bound students, not just the elite. Mathews' style is straightforward and honest. He provides realistic advice in a down-to-earth, humorous style. I will encourage all of my students and their parents to read this book." — Sally C. O'Rourke, high school counselor
"Selecting a college is one of the most important decisions many families make. Mathews both entertains and educates in making that decision a better one and, most importantly, making it one that both parents and students will be happy with. Calmly, clearly, with humor and zest, Mathews provides practical and jargon-free advice on how students can get the best education for them." — Dick Reed, Fairfax County, Virginia parent
"Compared to other annoying books on how to get into the best schools, Jay Mathews' book is a breath of fresh air. My own application experience has been eased by his lighthearted, almost satirical views on the process." — Linh Truong, student

From the Back Cover

Praise for Harvard Schmarvard:
"This book gives us a welcome and helpful way of looking at college and university rankings. Jay Mathews offers refreshing insights into the college admissions process and makes the important point that getting into the 'best' college is less important than choosing the college that brings out the best in every student." — Richard W. Riley, former U.S. Secretary of Education
"In a day when college-bound students are inundated with recruitment material and confusing claims of merit, Jay Mathews provides important guidance to help families navigate the college selection and application process." — William J. Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education
"Harvard Schmarvard is a smart, contrarian perspective on the pressure-filled college admissions process, by one of the country's best education writers. It's combination of advice, research, wit, and first-person tales from the frontlines deserves to be read by every high school student and every parent." — David A. Kaplan, senior editor, Newsweek
"There may be a better book on college admissions than Mathews', but I don't know what it is. Among overanxious candidates and parents—including me—nothing is more important than demolishing the silly idea that not getting into Harvard (or Duke, Stanford, or some other 'prestige' school) is a life-ending experience. Mathews does this and provides an immense amount of useful information about tests, guidance counselors, college selection, and early admissions. The book has the added advantage of being compulsively readable." — Robert J. Samuelson, Newsweek columnist
"Jay Mathews gets it. He puts into perspective what has become an increasingly out-of-control college admissions process. Any family embarking on this path will benefit from this guide." — Seppy Basili, coauthor, The Unofficial, Biased Guide to the 320 Most Interesting Colleges
"This book will free teens and parents from that stupid myth that college quality is measured by selectivity or name. A badly needed public service that lays bare the rankings fraud and the complicity of colleges in it." — Loren Pope, author, Colleges That Change Lives
"It would be great if all college-bound students read this book; for their parents it should be mandatory. I don't agree with every tip that Jay Mathews offers, but on the whole his is a wonderful voice of sanity on a subject that has driven much of America nuts." — James Fallows, The Atlantic Monthly
"Harvard Schmarvard demystifies and demythologizes the college selection process. Jay Mathews gives high school seniors and their parents a fresh and challenging perspective to college admissions that flies in the face of 'street wisdom' and the college rating guides." — Greg Feldmeth, assistant headmaster, Polytechnic School
"Finally, a resource for all college-bound students, not just the elite. Mathews' style is straightforward and honest. He provides realistic advice in a down-to-earth, humorous style. I will encourage all of my students and their parents to read this book." — Sally C. O'Rourke, high school counselor
"Selecting a college is one of the most important decisions many families make. Mathews both entertains and educates in making that decision a better one and, most importantly, making it one that both parents and students will be happy with. Calmly, clearly, with humor and zest, Mathews provides practical and jargon-free advice on how students can get the best education for them." — Dick Reed, Fairfax County, Virginia parent
"Compared to other annoying books on how to get into the best schools, Jay Mathews' book is a breath of fresh air. My own application experience has been eased by his lighthearted, almost satirical views on the process." — Linh Truong, student

More About the Author

Jay Mathews covers education for the Washington Post and has created Newsweek's annual Best High Schools rankings. He has won the Benjamin Fine Award for Outstanding Education Reporting for both features and column writing and is the author of six previous books, including Escalante: The Best Teacher in America, about the teacher who was immortalized in the movie Stand and Deliver.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 20 customer reviews
I highly recommend it to both parents and college seekers.
Robert A. Spillman
Mathews both entertains and educates in making that decision a better one and, most importantly, making it one that both parents and students will be happy with.
G. Reed
Mr. Mathews advocates really thinking about "fit" and visiting colleges to see first hand if it will be a good fit.
Alan Houston

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

149 of 152 people found the following review helpful By Gaetan Lion on January 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book could be subtitled "What the Ivy League and elite private high schools do not want you to know." Indeed, the author breaks so many myths about elite secondary and higher education that it is funny. The author has a great sense of humor. His writing style is very lively, and makes this book extremely easy to read. Yet, he conveys very insightful information that you rarely find within other college guides.
The author refers to a study by Stacy Dale, who found no difference in earnings between those students who had gone to Ivy league schools and those who had been accepted at those schools but had chosen to go elsewhere. She even found some indications that students who had applied and been rejected by the very selective colleges were doing just as well twenty years later as those who had gotten in. She named this phenomenon "The Steven Spielberg Effect." Indeed, Steven Spielberg was rejected by several of the top university film schools in Southern California. He graduated from a no name school. As they say, the rest is history. Thus, Stacy Dale in her study concludes that it is not the selectivity of the school that one attends, but the character, talent, intelligence, and drive of the student that really matters. The Ivies do not distinguish themselves by "what" they teach, but by "who" they teach. Given that the author is a Harvard graduate, he has instant credibility regarding his insightful criticism of the Ivies.
Elite private high schools and magnet schools do not have any advantages vs. other public schools in sending their students to the elite colleges. To the contrary, the author makes a case that they have a handicap. This is because one of the key factors within the Ivy league admission process is class rank.
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By CollegePlanGuy on March 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
Harvard Schmarvard is an excellent resource although it is not my favorite book on the college admissions process. The author, Jay Mathews, is funny and insightful, but doesn't always make the best case against brand name schools as his many stories of where students happily ended up include schools which really are pretty well-known powerhouses like Tufts, UCLA, or Columbia.

Here's where this book is indispensable: Wait-lists. If your student is wait-listed, things really don't look that rosy, but Mathews has some excellent advice on how to handle the ever increasing phenomenon and ways to get in that involve starting school during the summer or spring semesters instead of the fall. His information about how to analyze "college visit weekends" for admitted students and his advice to potential transfer students is also very good stuff. His position about the US News rankings seems very smart. He notes they can actually hurt students since they force colleges to panic about selectivity and yield, factors which can lead to wait-listing or rejecting strong candidates. In addition, Mathews' stories of students and parents he's known are excellent examples of what the college search can be like. Overall, this is a book I recommend picking up.

However, Mathews occasionally gives some odd advice. He suggests that visiting colleges in a student's junior year isn't a good idea because the schools will be too busy worrying about seniors. I can understand waiting to interview until senior year, but just about every other resource will tell you that students need to begin visiting colleges by, at the latest, the second semester of their junior year or they may face a bit of a time crunch.
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By John H. Hwung on April 1, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A breath of fresh air among all the colege guides! It stands out in several ways: Firstly, the name of the book is very catchy (in a subtle Harvard-slighting way). Secondly, the whole book is an interesting read becasue the author intermiexed his advices with a series of stories, including his own and his children's college applications and college lives. Thirdly, chapters 13, 14 and 16 are the real treasures of this book. The information is not found in any other guide books.
The main messages in this book are three: One, you don't need to go to the Ivy League or the most selective colleges to be successful in life. In fact, lost of successful people come from no-name schools. Two, U.S. News & World Report misleads parents and students, which I couldn't agree more. Three, college selectiion is a process to find a match for you, not to seek prestige or recognition.
The list of 100 recommended colleges at the end of the book is also wonderful. A lot of these schools are hidden gems.
If this book is so good, why do I only give it 4 stars? Well, it is mainly because there are so few quantitative data quoted in this book to back up the author's claims. If people can be just as successful going to selective vs. non-selective schools, where is the research data to back it up? Why didn't Harvard provide the author a great educational experience? Are there research out there that showed how and why research universities have failed the undergraduates? ...
Do I recommend people buying this book? Absolutely! But I think it can also be improved.
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