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Fat Envelope Frenzy: One Year, Five Promising Students, and the Pursuit of the Ivy League Prize Paperback – March 11, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
A former admissions officer at Dartmouth, Jager-Hyman decided to select five promising high school seniors and follow their progress through the college application process. She'd been concerned with what she calls fat envelope frenzy (fat envelope refers to the fact that acceptance brings many pages of info and forms to fill out, while rejection is just a single-page letter) and an obsession with accomplishment predicated on the myth that college admission is contingent solely on merit. On the contrary, Jager-Hyman says, colleges have many conflicting admissions objectives, making their policies confusing. Jager-Hyman then introduces the five high school students she's chosen to follow. Four of the five are incredible overachievers: in addition to nearly perfect grades and test scores, one's an Olympics-bound gymnast, one's a world-class pianist, one's a talented engineering student, and another's an Ethiopian-American math whiz. The fifth, a plucky Dominican-American, has lower scores and grades; her struggle for admission to the Ivies is more complicated, but potentially more instructive. Jager-Hyman follows all five through the emotional high points of the process—deciding where to apply, writing essays, going for interviews, awaiting the fat envelopes and then deciding which to accept. There are few surprises; all these talented students end up going to great schools. In the end, Jager-Hyman's book is padded with too many asides, and she offers little insider admissions advice. (Mar.)
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“[A]n engaging and informative book that every parent with a high-school student will want to read.” (Wall Street Journal)
“Jager-Hyman’s engaging stories of real students provide a much-needed reminder that the road taken may mean more than the destination, and---whatever the college-admission outcomes--there are many such roads to happiness and success.” (Sally Rubenstone, senior counselor, CollegeConfidential.com)
“Fat Envelope Frenzy will rivet all readers and make everyone who applies to an Ivy League college - whether they are accepted or not - feel infinitely better and infinitely wiser. Unmissable.” (Naomi Wolf, bestselling author of The End of America)
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Top Customer Reviews
The five real seniors who Jager-Hyman follows are:
Felix, a 16 year old Asian American who dreams of Harvard,
Andrew, a Catholic school boy from Louisiana who is displaced after Hurricane Katrina,
Marlene, a Hispanic girl who contemplates enrolling at the community college but shoots for the Ivies,
Lisa, a petite gymnastic champion with Olympic aspirations,
Nabil, a devout African American Muslim who is a big fish in a small pond at his high school.
All of these kids are personable and have qualities that will serve them well in college. I did get the impression that only 2-3 of them were actually strong candidates for the Ivies, and it was interesting to see how things went.
The best advice I can pull out of this for potential applicants is for them to find their passions and take action to develop in these areas. A candidate with "good test scores" but no particular demonstration of unique strengths is perhaps not a viable candidate for top tier schools. Colleges today want a well-rounded student body; not necessarily well-rounded students.
It is also very unfortunate that the cost of an education has become the stuff of nightmares. Too many excellent students are either following the money to lower tier schools that may or may not provide a superior education, or choosing tier one schools and graduating with tremendous debt.
Having said that, I enjoyed the book.
Strengths: clear writing. Good narrative. Very good story telling.
Weaknesses: questionable assertions, i.e. the author appears to suggest that Daniel Golden's breezy book (which is well written but at times is polemic) is just as well "researched" as Karabel's magnum opus and Avery, et al's magnificent work on early admissions.
This book should read with along with Creating a Class (2007), by Stevens and the Gatekeepers, by Steinberg.
put it down. It read like a novel, and I found myself totally
absorbed in those five youngsters' lives. I think it
is beautifully written, and I absolutely loved Ms. Jager-Hyman's digressions into
the ambiance and physical, environmental , and emotional circumstances
time and again. I loved that she could actually discern the type of
dress someone was wearing, and in the totality of the book, it was so
ameliorating to digress from the intensity of the central theme. I
felt as if I knew each of these kids.
It is again one of those books which you describe at
the end as one of the wide picture......very significant for a decent
understanding of the process, and along the way filled with little
jewels of information which are add -ons for the observant. It
reinforces many of my own ideas of the process, and finds a way to
reach out and humanize the entire process.
It is a wonderful book. I was sorry it had to end............Thanks
for writing it....all who are interested in admissions should read it
including parents, students, and guidance counselors.
Reading the book is a great comfort -- it reminds you and your kids are not alone in this crazy, pressure - filled process. I love the message - and agree with it: that your kids will end up in a great school for them - that you can relax!
This is a must read for every parent of a high school kids, for all teachers and for the students themselves!
Robin Stern Ph.D.
Teachers College, Columbia University