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The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges -- and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates

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Every spring thousands of middle-class and lower-income high-school seniors learn that they have been rejected by America’s most exclusive colleges. What they may never learn is how many candidates like themselves have been passed over in favor of wealthy white students with lesser credentials—children of alumni, big donors, or celebrities. In this explosive book, the Pulit Every spring thousands of middle-class and lower-income high-school seniors learn that they have been rejected by America’s most exclusive colleges. What they may never learn is how many candidates like themselves have been passed over in favor of wealthy white students with lesser credentials—children of alumni, big donors, or celebrities. In this explosive book, the Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Daniel Golden argues that America, the so-called land of opportunity, is rapidly becoming an aristocracy in which America’s richest families receive special access to elite higher education—enabling them to give their children even more of a head start. Based on two years of investigative reporting and hundreds of interviews with students, parents, school administrators, and admissions personnel—some of whom risked their jobs to speak to the author—The Price of Admission exposes the corrupt admissions practices that favor the wealthy, the powerful, and the famous. In The Price of Admission, Golden names names, along with grades and test scores. He reveals how the sons of former vice president Al Gore, one-time Hollywood power broker Michael Ovitz, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist leapt ahead of more deserving applicants at Harvard, Brown, and Princeton. He explores favoritism at the Ivy Leagues, Duke, the University of Virginia, and Notre Dame, among other institutions. He reveals that colleges hold Asian American students to a higher standard than whites; comply with Title IX by giving scholarships to rich women in “patrician sports” like horseback riding, squash, and crew; and repay congressmen for favors by admitting their children. He also reveals that Harvard maintains a “Z-list” for well-connected but underqualified students, who are quietly admitted on the condition that they wait a year to enroll. The Price of Admission explodes the myth of an American meritocracy—the belief that no matter what your background, if you are smart and diligent enough, you will have access to the nation’s most elite universities. It is must reading not only for parents and students with a personal stake in college admissions, but also for those disturbed by the growing divide between ordinary and privileged Americans.

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Every spring thousands of middle-class and lower-income high-school seniors learn that they have been rejected by America’s most exclusive colleges. What they may never learn is how many candidates like themselves have been passed over in favor of wealthy white students with lesser credentials—children of alumni, big donors, or celebrities. In this explosive book, the Pulit Every spring thousands of middle-class and lower-income high-school seniors learn that they have been rejected by America’s most exclusive colleges. What they may never learn is how many candidates like themselves have been passed over in favor of wealthy white students with lesser credentials—children of alumni, big donors, or celebrities. In this explosive book, the Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Daniel Golden argues that America, the so-called land of opportunity, is rapidly becoming an aristocracy in which America’s richest families receive special access to elite higher education—enabling them to give their children even more of a head start. Based on two years of investigative reporting and hundreds of interviews with students, parents, school administrators, and admissions personnel—some of whom risked their jobs to speak to the author—The Price of Admission exposes the corrupt admissions practices that favor the wealthy, the powerful, and the famous. In The Price of Admission, Golden names names, along with grades and test scores. He reveals how the sons of former vice president Al Gore, one-time Hollywood power broker Michael Ovitz, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist leapt ahead of more deserving applicants at Harvard, Brown, and Princeton. He explores favoritism at the Ivy Leagues, Duke, the University of Virginia, and Notre Dame, among other institutions. He reveals that colleges hold Asian American students to a higher standard than whites; comply with Title IX by giving scholarships to rich women in “patrician sports” like horseback riding, squash, and crew; and repay congressmen for favors by admitting their children. He also reveals that Harvard maintains a “Z-list” for well-connected but underqualified students, who are quietly admitted on the condition that they wait a year to enroll. The Price of Admission explodes the myth of an American meritocracy—the belief that no matter what your background, if you are smart and diligent enough, you will have access to the nation’s most elite universities. It is must reading not only for parents and students with a personal stake in college admissions, but also for those disturbed by the growing divide between ordinary and privileged Americans.

30 review for The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges -- and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Nichols

    I admit it - I primarily read this book to learn the unsavory details of Jared Kushner’s admission to Harvard, which in Daniel Golden’s telling becomes only one of the more blatant instances of rich parents buying admission to the Ivies for their callow offspring. The rest of THE PRICE OF ADMISSION tells a story shocking only to those who take Harvard et al’s propaganda seriously. Ivy League and elite universities (we may include in this category state ”flagships” like Berkeley) advertise themse I admit it - I primarily read this book to learn the unsavory details of Jared Kushner’s admission to Harvard, which in Daniel Golden’s telling becomes only one of the more blatant instances of rich parents buying admission to the Ivies for their callow offspring. The rest of THE PRICE OF ADMISSION tells a story shocking only to those who take Harvard et al’s propaganda seriously. Ivy League and elite universities (we may include in this category state ”flagships” like Berkeley) advertise themselves as meritocracies, but in practice they award large percentages of their admits to “development cases” (families with $$$), celebrities’ children, and athletes in elite sports like horseback-riding. Consequently, a lot of truly talented young people, many of them Asian-American, get rejected from the “top” schools and have to settle for large state universities or small liberal arts colleges. As another Goodreads reviewer noted, this is more a tragedy for the Ivy League than for the rejected students, who probably get a better education at Williams or Michigan. At the very end of his expose, Golden waxes rhapsodic about his days at Grand Old Harvard, basking in the warm rich light that flowed into Dunster House library, sipping sherry with tweedy old profs, and flourishing in the company of so many brilliant young people like himself. PRICE OF ADMISSION reveals itself as a declension narrative: the Ivies once incubated young talent, but now they just coddle rich mediocrities. All of this is bunk. Insofar as they were anything other than giant tax-free real-estate investment firms, Ivy League colleges always served as finishing schools for the rich. Anyone who has studied their social institutions (dining clubs, etc.) knows that student life at the Ivies revolves around snobbery rather than mutual interest. When Yale, Princeton, Stanford, or Duke admit the brilliant or eccentric, they do so to provide a slightly brainier classroom environment for the real (wealthy) customers, and because they can steer some of the science geeks and pre-meds into finance and convert them into future donors. This was true thirty years ago and I bet it was equally true in Golden’s day.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Selim Tlili

    The main premise of the book, that wealthy "legacies" have a distinct advantage in admission to elite universities, is hardly surprising to anyone. The extent of that advantage is shocking; according to the author anywhere around 40% of annual seats to elite universities are set aside for children of alumni, athletes of elitist sports like sailing and "development" cases where future donations to the school are an unstated but implied expectation. The extent of Asian American bias is also well kn The main premise of the book, that wealthy "legacies" have a distinct advantage in admission to elite universities, is hardly surprising to anyone. The extent of that advantage is shocking; according to the author anywhere around 40% of annual seats to elite universities are set aside for children of alumni, athletes of elitist sports like sailing and "development" cases where future donations to the school are an unstated but implied expectation. The extent of Asian American bias is also well known but the extent is definitely surprising. It is difficult to see how anyone reading this can realistically claim that the "bastions" of American Higher Education can truly claim to be a meritocracy when Asian American students need to score hundreds of points higher on the SATs in order to compare with a comparable white student. Golden provides a plethora of cases of massive inequality of outcomes where top students of middle class background and Asian descent are rejected from their first choices despite stellar background while a less favorable legacy student is accepted. This is one of the problems of the book; it could have used half of the anecdotes and been just as effective at conveying its message. While Golden doubtless wanted to convey his message in no uncertain terms it seems like the main purpose of so many narratives telling essentially the same story was to pad the book. By sharing so many similar stories the readers sense of emotional outrage is exhausted quickly. Perhaps if there had been fewer stories I would have maintained some sympathy for the people rejected from the elite schools. But the reality is that it's hard to feel too much pity for the Korean American (or any student) who got rejected from the Ivy League schools but instead went to Johns Hopkins where she got a partial scholarship. Golden offers some ideas for remedying the inequality of legacy admissions but he doesn't once question the premise whether an Ivy League education should be attained at all cost. With thousands of universities in the US it would seem to me that the top students rejected by a narrow stretch of Northeastern Universities would be highly desired at fantastic schools throughout the country. Those top students might find a great school in the Midwest provides a fantastic education that is an even better fit for them than Harvard. Ultimately a student who graduates with a 3.8 GPA at almost any top school will still have an entryway into any career path even if that path isn't as smooth as it would have been with a Yale sheepskin. All in all the book was very interesting I just wish it was shorter and challenged the primacy of the Ivy League even a tiny bit. I wouldn't particularly recommend this book for anyone since a quick review of the book tells the entirety of the story.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jill Crosby

    Newly relevant in the face of recent college admissions scandals, Golden’s 13-year-Old book does some explaining about how America’s elite continue to perpetuate themselves while scolding the rest of us for not having their educational background—-then blocking us from achieving that education. Eye-opening and appalling. I’m even less impressed by a degree from a Big Name School now than I was before I read the book, and before I read the book my reverence for an Ivy degree was pretty low

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Rich kids, celebrities, and legacies getting preferential treatment and perpetuating a culture of privilege at Ivy Leagues isn't ground-breaking, but it was interesting to read how it works in practice. Title IX prompting a rise in "patrician sports" scholarships for girls already wealthy was also informative. The "Asian fail" and Asian quotas won't be a new concept if you live in California, but I liked that Golden differentiated the subgroups of the Asian-American label, and how this arbitrary Rich kids, celebrities, and legacies getting preferential treatment and perpetuating a culture of privilege at Ivy Leagues isn't ground-breaking, but it was interesting to read how it works in practice. Title IX prompting a rise in "patrician sports" scholarships for girls already wealthy was also informative. The "Asian fail" and Asian quotas won't be a new concept if you live in California, but I liked that Golden differentiated the subgroups of the Asian-American label, and how this arbitrary umbrella prevents Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders from getting affirmative action benefits despite high rates of poverty and low rates of education. The chapter on CalTech (staunch meritocracy), Cooper Union (elite and free), and Berea College (free and only open to the poor) was great--so positive after slogging through so much cynicism. And that's what I didn't like about this book at all: the cynicism. I can understand his anger at the system, but it messed with his argument. Each chapter focuses on a specific issue and (usually) targets a specific college, and he dumps every related anecdote and statistic even if he's used it before, making it repetitive and meandering. He subtly praises the people he likes, but makes most other people he interviews sound almost insidious. Some of those people were teenagers. Maybe they were willfully ignorant, but seriously, Golden: lay off. I didn't go to an Ivy League. The clearest message I took from this is that I should be a regular donor to my alma mater and boost its ability to offer aid, and spread the word that you don't have to go to a name-brand college to do well. Like some other reviews state here, it's the obsession to get recognition that's the source of all these problems. Golden's chapter on proposed solutions doesn't bring it up at all, which is a shame.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Beverly Kent

    I will admit to reading the first chapter carefully, but between anger and sadness I skimmed the remaining chapters until the last 2. These are worth trudging through the others. His detailed analysis of Caltech,Copper Union and Berea are well worth. The last chapter detailing what should and (could) be done verges on fairy tale particularly in the current political environment and considering how long ago this book was written. Kudos to Mr. Golden for courage to detail the inequities.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    This is an entertaining and well-researched read. The gist of the book didn't surprise me (and it's clearly evident from the title), but the extent to which faculty children, "legacies" and the wealthy/famous get breaks in the college admissions game was a bit of a shock. The author won a Pulitzer with the Wall St. Journal for his writings on this subject.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    Interesting, but uses the case study approach rather than marshalling up comprehensive arguments.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Suzie

    1. Underqualified rich white people are taking a high percentage of spots at Ivy league schools. 2. High acheiving Asian Americans are rejected at a higher rate than others from a lot of highly competitive US schools. 3. There are three highly competitive US schools doing it right: Berea, Caltech, and Cooper Union. It's mostly depressing, everyone.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Hubert

    Damning indictment of policies that equate to "affirmative action for the privileged and wealthy." The anecdotal, reportorial style makes for faster reading, but a more systematic, empirical study is called for. Nonetheless, the author's conclusions will make you nauseous! The recommendations at the end of the book calling for the end of preferential treatment for legacy admits, and other privileged groups, is useful.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    As I write this, the book is about 8 years old, and as far as I can tell not one damned thing has changed policy-wise since the book has been written. Sigh. (Well other than the fact that Cooper Union is now charging tuition.) College is a business, y'all, and people with lots of money or power will edge out people without it. There is plenty of dead-horse beating in this book. It's about six chapters of "See [this elite university]! They are one of the most selective in the nation, and the avera As I write this, the book is about 8 years old, and as far as I can tell not one damned thing has changed policy-wise since the book has been written. Sigh. (Well other than the fact that Cooper Union is now charging tuition.) College is a business, y'all, and people with lots of money or power will edge out people without it. There is plenty of dead-horse beating in this book. It's about six chapters of "See [this elite university]! They are one of the most selective in the nation, and the average SAT score of admitted students is 1460 (M+V). However they admitted a person with a really low score because they were [a legacy/a polo player/a billionaire's kid/Natalie Portman/faculty offspring]! How is this fair to [Asians/unhooked applicants/poor geniuses/people whose parents aren't in Congress]?" Lots and lots of anecdotes, some repeated to the point of tedium (did you know that Al Gore's worthless son and Bill Frist's worthless son were both admitted to top Ivies? Golden tells you about each one twice to indicate how this problem crosses party lines). Wants to abolish legacy preference, rich-people courting, athletic scholarships for rich-kid sports like sailing, crew, squash, and fencing, and quit giving admissions breaks to faculty's children. Obviously the rich and powerful aren't in favor of eliminating this sort of affirmative action, which is part of the reason the 2003 case trying to outlaw race-based affirmative action failed in the Supreme Court (basically everyone but Clarence Thomas benefited from or conferred legacy benefits to their offspring). Mentions Cal Tech, Berea, and Cooper Union as anti-legacy, anti-rich, meritocratic institutions, though at least one of them has ceased to be so since the book was published.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    An incredible work detailing how several colleges and universities have utilized their admissions offices to raise money and prestige, while sacrificing their academic integrity. Each chapter focuses on a different tactic or issue in higher education admissions, be it legacies, development cases, patrician athletics and how they manipulate Title IX, or discrimination against Asian American students. Every tactic is explored largely at one school, but other institutions are freely listed, and mos An incredible work detailing how several colleges and universities have utilized their admissions offices to raise money and prestige, while sacrificing their academic integrity. Each chapter focuses on a different tactic or issue in higher education admissions, be it legacies, development cases, patrician athletics and how they manipulate Title IX, or discrimination against Asian American students. Every tactic is explored largely at one school, but other institutions are freely listed, and most resurface throughout the entire text. Anecdotal evidence lies next to statistics and numerical data for a fascinating read that moves quickly. Golden skewers highly esteemed schools for their utter disregard of integrity to achieve a higher ranking or a larger endowment. He has accomplished a truly stunning book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Not bad at all. I think this will unfortunately put more fuel to the fire to those who weren't accepted to the college of their choice. Sometimes, yes, there is some question as to why some students are accepted or denied. But sometimes, you're denied because you don't fulfill the qualifications. There was one interesting section on Asian applicants and how Asians must excel twice as well as their white counterparts in order to be accepted. We don't fall under Affirmative Action. So, if an Asian Not bad at all. I think this will unfortunately put more fuel to the fire to those who weren't accepted to the college of their choice. Sometimes, yes, there is some question as to why some students are accepted or denied. But sometimes, you're denied because you don't fulfill the qualifications. There was one interesting section on Asian applicants and how Asians must excel twice as well as their white counterparts in order to be accepted. We don't fall under Affirmative Action. So, if an Asian is a good student but poor, they have less of a chance of admissions. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever had to work in Admissions or are interested in college counseling.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    So gross. A must-read. Seems that the anecdotes could've been better organized within each chapter.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Vette

    No real surprises here, the rich, famous, and well connected have systems in place to ensure their offspring's admittance into top educational institutions. I meant to read this book years ago when it first came out, but the subject matter is still relevant. I decided to pick it up after the "Varsity Blues" college scandal, where rich parents basically bribed their way (through unofficial channels-they didn't donate directly to the schools) to get their kids in. It was interesting to learn that c No real surprises here, the rich, famous, and well connected have systems in place to ensure their offspring's admittance into top educational institutions. I meant to read this book years ago when it first came out, but the subject matter is still relevant. I decided to pick it up after the "Varsity Blues" college scandal, where rich parents basically bribed their way (through unofficial channels-they didn't donate directly to the schools) to get their kids in. It was interesting to learn that connected students were admitted as athletes for sports such as crew, lacrosse, golf, and polo. All sports that are dominated by wealthy white participants, who may not meet the academic requirements of the school but are allowed in because of spots on the team. Coaches and schools increased the rosters of the team, even though not all of the athletes were needed to compete. Then there were the children of coaches and famous athletes who were benchwarmers never scoring a single point, but allowed to take spots on the team as a roundabout way in. John Grisham's son's story was disheartening to learn that he actually wanted to play for the University of Virginia, but was sidelined because they only really wanted his father's money to revamp their baseball stadium. At least he knew when to quit compared to others, so I will give him that. The discrimination against Asian American and international students requiring financial aid was informative. I didn't care for him blaming other disenfranchised groups of underrepresented minorities as one of the reasons Asian Americans aren't admitted, without taking into account the lack of funding for formative schools located in Latino and black neighborhoods. He mentioned a lawsuit brought against Princeton in the epilogue but nothing else since it was still pending at the time. There is an affirmative action lawsuit against Harvard brought by Edward Bloom on behalf of Asian Americans, even though this is a man who has tried numerous times and failed to have affirmative action repealed in different states (Abigail Fisher's lawsuit against University of Texas) and just found a new face for it. Research shows Asian admission at Harvard has been on the rise, but that may have been due in part to the criticism they and other institutions have been receiving. I do think Asian Americans are discriminated against, but like he pointed out only once in the book there are other groups such as South Asians and Pacific Islanders who suffer more by being all placed under one umbrella. I wish he had delved more into that subject matter but its probably enough to fill an entirely new book on its own. His solution of adding more Asian American counselors, admissions staff, and directors would definitely be beneficial. Caltech, Berea College, and Cooper Union are all schools doing it right without suffering from lack of donors. I don't think anything will change in the future, but hopefully there will be more criticism and focus on changing the advantages given to the wealthy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    An interesting read on how the wealthy, well connected and powerful ensure places for their potentially underqualified children at America's most prestigious universities (see section on Jared Kushner's acceptance to Harvard). Often these kinds of legs-up are given to students to ensure alumni and family giving and enhance a university's endowment. Golden argues that to be a true meritocracy we need to dispense with things like legacy preference, development cases, breaks for faculty and staff c An interesting read on how the wealthy, well connected and powerful ensure places for their potentially underqualified children at America's most prestigious universities (see section on Jared Kushner's acceptance to Harvard). Often these kinds of legs-up are given to students to ensure alumni and family giving and enhance a university's endowment. Golden argues that to be a true meritocracy we need to dispense with things like legacy preference, development cases, breaks for faculty and staff children and athletic scholarships for sports that are usually only played at elite and exclusive private schools (polo, fencing, sailing, crew, etc.) He uses Caltech, the Cooper Union and Barea college to illustrate how colleges can still ensure their endowments without catering to legacy or development preference. Golden also suggests that the college admissions system hurts Asian-American students (he argues that they are the new Jews), who have superior grades and test scores (and are often held to higher standards), yet don't have the connections to give them an edge at very competitive schools. Golden suggests that due to the fact that many of these kids are first generation Americans, they do not benefit from legacy and their parents are not in the financial position to donate to the school so they cannot be consider development cases. Asian Americans also do not benefit from affirmative action programs because they are often overrepresented in colleges. I would have given the book a higher ranking, but it was a bit repetitive. This might have to do with the fact that it was initially written as a series of newspaper articles for the Wall Street Journal. I also felt like some of Golden's conclusions, though well-intentioned, were unlikely. For example, he suggested that universities pay their professors more rather than giving them breaks on their children's tuition. He argued this would be more equitable to faculty who don't have children. While I support this idea in theory, in the era of underpaid adjuncts and TAs, universities are unlikely to raise the salaries of professors. Therefore, I think Golden's suggestion that faculty tuition breaks be "portable" (transferable to whatever college the child attends) is more a more likely and useful solution. Overall a good, if somewhat infuriating, read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tnb

    There is nothing to say besides that this country is wasting a lot of talent because of discriminating policies. Major institutions of high education hold the belief that they have to appease any way possible their alumni and potential donors in order to secure constant inflow for their endowments. All attempts aimed at the legacy and preferential admissions have resulted in a kindergartner's argument: "But he started it" meaning that as long as affirmative action is on the books, which are discri There is nothing to say besides that this country is wasting a lot of talent because of discriminating policies. Major institutions of high education hold the belief that they have to appease any way possible their alumni and potential donors in order to secure constant inflow for their endowments. All attempts aimed at the legacy and preferential admissions have resulted in a kindergartner's argument: "But he started it" meaning that as long as affirmative action is on the books, which are discriminating, then as long the legacy admissions, also discriminating, would remain on the books. Of course, it has to be understood that society at large has not benefited equally from progressive agendas: progressive agendas have been historically skewed to make minorities, the undesirables, stay away from the good side of town. Hence the need for affirmative action. A black child did not go to a dilapidated school for fun, no, that was the mandated reality, thanks to funding games and gerrymandering. We need to integrate all social groups and become egalitarian(equal start) and merit-based society, and we have to take some sour pills, not forever, but until enough critical mass of individuals have passed through and acquired the skills and representation. As it stands, unfortunately, the individuals who would benefit from affirmative action types of policies are not taking advantage of the opportunities, and behave arrogantly, as an entitlement. What in large they are not understanding is that this is not an entitlement game. It needs to become "You work, you earn. ", and if you don't work you can play in the gutter, because it is an allowed outcome. In addition, while some groups are kept deliberately as a minority, there is no reason that they should self-segregate, which is a real phenomenon on campuses. This groups can be religious-based or ethnic-based. Integration comes from deliberately infiltrating the camp that is deliberately not integrating you. This is the problem of missed opportunities.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Silverman

    Starts off real strong and I thoroughly enjoyed the first few chapters. I personally knew/know a few of those mentioned and I was moved to see how positively they were portrayed by the author. Unfortunately, I felt the book fell apart in the later chapters - and I suspect, that it why the book has ultimately received such a low average rating. The first chapters are absolutely 5 star and exceptionally well researched. The rest of the book is unfortunately anecdotal, narrow focused, opinion based Starts off real strong and I thoroughly enjoyed the first few chapters. I personally knew/know a few of those mentioned and I was moved to see how positively they were portrayed by the author. Unfortunately, I felt the book fell apart in the later chapters - and I suspect, that it why the book has ultimately received such a low average rating. The first chapters are absolutely 5 star and exceptionally well researched. The rest of the book is unfortunately anecdotal, narrow focused, opinion based and at times not cognizant of (or even worse) not willing to acknowledge other possible reasons for outcomes. The author at times cherrypicks stories clouded by recall and memory bias and then weaves them together. There are outliers in every exploration, focusing only on those cases is disingenuous. As someone who has been involved in the admissions process, I can attest that it is complicated and sometimes heartbreaking. While I certainly understand the author's agenda, and he is in many ways correct, I still prefer full academic honesty in what I read. University Presidents, Admissions Officers, and Development Directors are not evil. While the system is not perfect, it is also not rigged against you. Everyone I have ever known who has been involved in the admissions process has an interest in continually improving it - for so many reasons, not the least of which is child health. It's not just about equality.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mike Harper

    This would be an OK newspaper editorial. It makes the case that kids get into prestigious colleges because they come from wealthy families, are children of alumni or faculty, or - horrors - are recruited athletes. Probably so, but the author's abhorrence of admissions preferences, and of the injustice to more qualified applicants who are rejected, is perfectly apparent after the first few pages. The rest is just TMI. I stopped caring when I encountered page after page about Notre Dame's preferen This would be an OK newspaper editorial. It makes the case that kids get into prestigious colleges because they come from wealthy families, are children of alumni or faculty, or - horrors - are recruited athletes. Probably so, but the author's abhorrence of admissions preferences, and of the injustice to more qualified applicants who are rejected, is perfectly apparent after the first few pages. The rest is just TMI. I stopped caring when I encountered page after page about Notre Dame's preference for legacies and Duke's preference for rich kids The author's prejudice becomes all too apparent as he praises Ted Kennedy, of all people, for taking a stand against Harvard's legacy preferences. Good grief! If there ever were preferred legacy students, they were members of the Kennedy clan. This would have been a better effort if there had been some mention of the nation's small liberal arts colleges. Somehow, they escaped scrutiny, even those that are notoriously difficult to get into, such as Williams, Carleton, Swarthmore and Oberlin.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michael Quon

    Terrific journalism about preferences for admission to elite colleges that go beyond merit including affirmative action, legacy, Development, athletics. Very detailed, well researched, rigorous analysis of data. Especially detailed about Duke and Notre dame. But also excellent detail on harvard, princeton, Cal tech. Less detailed on other California state schools and other ivies. Practically zero on U Chicago. Extremely enlightening. Really dishes the dirt and names names. Since book was publish Terrific journalism about preferences for admission to elite colleges that go beyond merit including affirmative action, legacy, Development, athletics. Very detailed, well researched, rigorous analysis of data. Especially detailed about Duke and Notre dame. But also excellent detail on harvard, princeton, Cal tech. Less detailed on other California state schools and other ivies. Practically zero on U Chicago. Extremely enlightening. Really dishes the dirt and names names. Since book was published in 2006, interesting comparisons can now be made with present day 2018 with many trends now confirmed and enlarged in terms of magnitude of effects. Prescient detailed documentation regarding how Jared kushner's father bought him a seat at harvard undergrad for $2.5M, without legacy or other hooks. Not clear to me why Kushner was such a person of interest then but he is obviously relevant now as a close trump advisor

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

    Marx at his best. There is a ruling class. And the people from among whom they come, the people that give them the power and the money are the poor proletariat. And the holy grail of expensive education is surprise! expensive. And exceptional for this years, unique in the history, the rich and powerful have certain advantages. Now, to have the plumber recommend me his son to paint my house is normal and family values are essential. But for an affluent person to give a nudge to son or daughter, t Marx at his best. There is a ruling class. And the people from among whom they come, the people that give them the power and the money are the poor proletariat. And the holy grail of expensive education is surprise! expensive. And exceptional for this years, unique in the history, the rich and powerful have certain advantages. Now, to have the plumber recommend me his son to paint my house is normal and family values are essential. But for an affluent person to give a nudge to son or daughter, that IS the definition of immoral. The sky is falling through cherry picking and other fallacies. And that is what the believers call "well researched." So maybe the son and daughters do deserve a helping hand over the offspring of such public. Does Daniel Golden is truly believing the junk written in these pages or he only caters for the need of fear of a certain public? I don't know. But I don't think it really makes a difference.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ushan

    There is not much material in this book, which could have been several times shorter. Rich people, including Jared Kushner's dad, use favoritism and the promise of donations to get their unqualified offspring into the Ivy League. The Ivy League discriminates against Asian Americans. The reason it discriminates against Asian Americans, which is to say discrimination in favor of blacks and Hispanics, is left unmentioned; a few months ago I read a study that estimated that with race-blind admission There is not much material in this book, which could have been several times shorter. Rich people, including Jared Kushner's dad, use favoritism and the promise of donations to get their unqualified offspring into the Ivy League. The Ivy League discriminates against Asian Americans. The reason it discriminates against Asian Americans, which is to say discrimination in favor of blacks and Hispanics, is left unmentioned; a few months ago I read a study that estimated that with race-blind admissions, the number of blacks at Harvard would plummet, the number of Hispanics drop less dramatically, the number of Asians skyrocket, and the number of whites stay roughly the same. Caltech, Cooper Union, and Berea College don't do this. I would prefer a book on a more general topic: who gets admitted to selective colleges now, and who should for the good of the society.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Since the publication of this book, the percentage of students admitted to top colleges has dropped into the single digits, tuition has spiraled into the stratosphere, hidden fees have exploded, SAT/ACT scores are all all-time highs, and kids routinely score top marks on AP exams. There's so much to say here, but I'll leave it at this: Read "The Price of Admission" through the lens of today's landscape and you'll understand why so many white, middle class families are hiring private college admi Since the publication of this book, the percentage of students admitted to top colleges has dropped into the single digits, tuition has spiraled into the stratosphere, hidden fees have exploded, SAT/ACT scores are all all-time highs, and kids routinely score top marks on AP exams. There's so much to say here, but I'll leave it at this: Read "The Price of Admission" through the lens of today's landscape and you'll understand why so many white, middle class families are hiring private college admissions coaches. And should you happen to be a high-achieving Asian? You ESPECIALLY should hire a private college admissions coach. Start planning in Middle School. Seriously.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ann Frost

    Just in case you might think entrance to US elite colleges is based on merit, you probably should read this book. A fascinating behind the scenes account of how colleges stack their classes with legacies, celebrities, privileged sports players (equestrian, lacrosse, and rowing) all in the quest for more and more donor dollars. Harvard doesn't need the money, people. Nor does Yale, Princeton, Brown, or Columbia - etc., etc. I felt ill reading this. And I wonder how different Canadian universities Just in case you might think entrance to US elite colleges is based on merit, you probably should read this book. A fascinating behind the scenes account of how colleges stack their classes with legacies, celebrities, privileged sports players (equestrian, lacrosse, and rowing) all in the quest for more and more donor dollars. Harvard doesn't need the money, people. Nor does Yale, Princeton, Brown, or Columbia - etc., etc. I felt ill reading this. And I wonder how different Canadian universities might be, or will continue to be, as the pressure for alumni donations grows.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alex Rhee

    The incentives of the american higher education system are slightly distorted and the case is laid out in this book. The primary goal of elite college is to increase their own prestige/ranking rather than to benefit the public and a lot of actions stem from this misalignment. We may look back in 100y and think some of these admission practices as anachronistic. 4 stars instead of 5, had a bit too many anecdotes whereas a single graph would have sufficed.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne Bagnato

    Excellent read - I did not think too much of some of these "elite" schools from the start - this just reaffirmed my position. Anyone who feels bad about not getting into these schools should read this and see how the odds were against you from the beginning. A must for high school students and their parents. Read it together with "Where you go is not who you'll be" - by Frank Bruni. Interesting section on the president's son-in-law and Harvard.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Maria C.

    The main premise of this book is: A wallet is a terrible thing to waste; and at ivy's or wanttobe ivys that resolution is pursued relentlessly, through wooing of celebrities, or CEOs or anyone who can open up that wallet and give gifts of substantial monetary value/significance to the school itself.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark Feltskog

    Daniel Golden is a Pulitzer Prize winner, so it goes without saying that this is sturdily written, carefully reported and documented book. One need not look further than its title to understand that it tells a story that it not especially flattering to the institutions it covers. This is a story that was badly in need of telling, and Americans should be concerned about its implications.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Molly Voorheis

    A compelling discussion of the "real" affirmative action at play in college admissions. Heartbreaking for students who work so hard to make themselves attractive college applicants. There are invisible barriers they're working against that make their admission less likely.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jin

    A great book about the dirty secrets of elite colleges' admission.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    Too many similar stories in this book, and I think the book could be shortened into 100 pages.

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