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A Is for Admission: The Insider's Guide to Getting into the Ivy League and Other Top Colleges Paperback – September 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Plenty of college admission guides promise to help students crack the Ivy League, but few of these have detailed knowledge to back up their advice. Michele Hernandez, on the other hand, is the ultimate insider. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Dartmouth College, she also worked as Dartmouth's assistant director of admissions for four years. In A Is for Admissions, Hernandez describes the step-by-step process Ivy League schools use to evaluate an application. Along the way she settles some ancient debates, including the comparative importance of SATs versus high-school grades, public versus private high schools, and extracurricular activities versus part-time employment. She evaluates every possible factor affecting chances for admission, including special categories of students such as recruited athletes, minority applicants, and legacies. Most dramatically, Hernandez reveals the precise mathematical formula used by admissions officers to rank applicants. Using her guidelines, readers can calculate their own AI (Academic Index) and--should their scores come up short--learn ways to compensate in other areas.

Refreshingly, Hernandez helps would-be Ivy Leaguers keep their goals in perspective. She strongly advises against "grade grubbing" or "working for the grade." If you think attending a top college is the key to success, Hernandez cautions that the Ivies may not be for you. "If your goal is to make money, but you don't enjoy studying or reading, don't waste your time by trying to get into an Ivy League or highly selective college.... The beauty of an Ivy League/highly selective education lies in the intellectual atmosphere.... It does not lie in the prestige of having a diploma from Princeton or Dartmouth on your wall." Levelheaded and clearly written, A Is for Admission is the perfect guide for the student (or parent) who has his eyes set on the stars. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Just about anything you would need to know to be accepted into an Ivy League school can be found in this very detailed, very specific volume. Aimed at informing both students and parents, it begins where you might not expect?preschool and kindergarten?and continues on with advice for the middle school/junior high years. Then comes the bulk of the text?a student's high school years. Hernandez offers tips and suggestions on everything from what high school classes students should take to what national tests and when; what to expect during the personal interview; what to do if you are (or are not) accepted. As a former admissions officer at Dartmouth, Hernandez knows what she's talking about, but her writing is not as tight as it could be. Certain information is repeated, perhaps to stress important points, but at times it's bothersome. Still, this would be a welcome addition to most public libraries.?Terry A. Christner, Hutchinson P.L., Kan.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (September 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446674060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446674065
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #593,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

193 of 209 people found the following review helpful By Gaetan Lion on November 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
Many reviewers indicated this is the best book on the subject. I agree. Why is it better than the other ones? There are several reasons, as described in the following paragraphs.
The author is a true insider, as she was an admission officer at Dartmouth for four years. She uncovers many insights about Ivy League admission that the other books do not.
By reading this book, you will get an in depth knowledge about peculiar formulas used by the Ivies, including the Academic Index, and its subset the Converted Rank Score (CRS). The CRS indicates that the Ivies do not care so much about GPAs, which at the top level does not differentiate between candidates, but they care instead about class rank.
Another factor that is key is the strength of your curriculum (honors and AP classes). If you took easy classes to get As, forget it, your 4.0 GPA will be discounted accordingly.
According to the author, test scores are crucial. They account for 2/3 of the Academic Index points. And, academic factors account for 70 to 85% of the overall admission decision. Also, the SAT IIs are as important as the SAT Is. This is a fact most ignore by over preparing for the SAT Is by spending big bucks on prep classes (Princeton Review, Kaplan, etc...) , but not spending much energy on preparing for the SAT IIs. This is a major strategic error.
It goes without saying that the Ivy League is incredibly competitive. The average SAT score of the Dartmouth freshman class is 1415! So, to distinguish yourself as a better than average applicant you have to score over 1430 on your SATs and do equally well on your SAT IIs. Obviously, this is no small feat for common mortals.
What makes the admission game even harder is that so many applicants get accepted under preferential treatments.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
College applications are a mystifying process. With directions often never exceeding a sentence or two, students are often left with the question "Well, what exactly DO they want from me?" Well, this book tells you.
Mrs. Hernandez's brutally honest look into the application process lays everything out crystal clear for the reader to see. As they say, knowing is half the battle, and knowing how top colleges look at your application let you tailor your application so that the best qualities of you are shown. It also offers plenty of good advice on what to do if you're a NKB (Nice kid, but...) and aren't one of those people with a 1600 and have published their own bestselling novel.
The only warning I would have is that college admissions has gotten exponentially harder over the past 5 years since this book was published, and what is said in the book about Academic 7, 8 and 9's (i.e. the most academically qualified)isn't as true as it was five years ago. Current academic 7 8 9's would do well to take a look at the advice given to 4, 5, 6's as nothing is guaranteed in today's crapshoot that we call college admissions. Particularly, I feel the essay has become more and more important in differentiating between top qualified students.
Parents ought to start reading this book before their kid is in high school, so they can sort of guide their children in the right direction, but please please PLEASE don't give this book to kids until the start of their summer before senior year. I would shudder to think of a kid whose entire four years of high school were spent scheming about how to get into Harvard; high school is simply not a stepping stone into college, it's a time of learning to be taken in it's own right.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
The book offers a much-needed dose of reality for anyone approaching the competitive world of college admissions. While the author relies on her experience on Dartmouth's staff, general concepts can be gleaned and applied to other competitive schools. The book is particularly helpful to those unfamiliar with the subject and gives an idea of what to expect from the mysterious and uncertain selection process.
Hernandez' book is specifically designed for ivy-caliber schools and does not purport to help unqualified students gain admission to highly selective colleges. It is more of a common-sense manual that helps candidates within range improve their chances by maximizing their attributes and submitting flattering and reasonably polished applications.
Helpful suggestions are offered, such as pitfalls to avoid in personal essays and strategies for tackling wait list purgatory. Complicated statistical tables and analyses are provided; interpreting the data may require some degree of sophistication.
"A is for Admission" is written in a chatty, informal style that is highly entertaining. The humor should help relax even the most anxious of readers.
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97 of 117 people found the following review helpful By smarmer on April 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Getting your kid into a good college is a nerve-racking process for most parents. It certainly has been for us. We have found the customer reviews in Amazon very helpful. That prompts us to distill our ratings of the various guidebooks.
The best short reference on each college is the Princeton Review of The Best (311) Colleges. It gives ratings of academic quality, difficulty of admission, percentage admitted, etc. There is also a brief summary of college life and what each place might be looking for.
Peterson Guide is comprehensive, and has long write-ups for each school. There is a front section for each school, listed alphabetically within each state, and a back section with detailed profiles of selected institutions.
Fiske's guide is interesting, but he basically has something good to say for each school, so careful reading between the lines and for "damning with faint praise" is called for.
The Yale Insider's Guide is extremely subjective, with different students writing various reviews. We did not find it too reliable, except in conjunction with other books.
Likewise for Barrron's Guide to the Most Competitive Colleges. Recent alumni write of their (invariably positive) experiences. Take it with a grain of salt, or read carefully between the lines.
Choosing the Right College by ISN was extremely helpful. Some readers criticized it for being allegedly right wing. We did not find it so. Rather, knowing the point of view of the authors helped us evaluate their observations. Other books do not make their biases explicit. A feature of the book we found particularly helpful was the naming of excellent professors and departments in each college.
Antonoff's College Finder was interesting only in conjunction with other books.
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