From an expert on higher education and the author of the New York Times bestseller There Is Life After College, comes a revealing look at college admissions that draws on embedded observations of admissions officers and yields practical advice and helpful strategies for navigating the system.
For many, the college admissions process feels like a zero-sum game. For frustrated parents and their heartbroken teenagers who've been rejected by their top school, searching and applying to college has become a nightmare. Admissions scandals are front-page news. But the reality is, there are plenty of spots available at US campuses for the nearly 2 million high school graduates who plan to attend college. In Who Gets In and Why higher education expert Jeffrey Selingo pulls back the curtain on the mysterious, sometimes bizarre, inner workings of the college admissions process and shows that it’s much easier to get into a quality institution than you think. Success in college is about how you go, not just where you go.
Sitting at the same table as evaluating admissions officers from three very different schools during the 2018–2019 academic year—Emory University (large private), Davidson College (small private), and University of Washington (large public)—Selingo carefully studies how decision makers make their calls. He also follows select students and their parents through their journey, from Fall recruitment to Spring selection season, shedding light on the motivations and priorities of those who can make the process easier or more difficult, including guidance counselors, college marketers, and rankers. One surprising truth: getting in is often not about the applicant but about the college. While many believe admissions is based on a student’s ability, Who Gets In and Why shows that it never was, and likely never will be.
In a scenario where 30,000 applicants compete for 1,450 spots, schools are driven by a confluence of competing priorities, including how they rank in the pecking order of higher education. That status often dictates how they choose to compete, raising questions about fairness that will continue to be debated for a long time.
There is hope though. Once you understand the admissions process as explained by Seligno, you’ll be better able to win acceptance from the college of your choice.
Jeffrey Selingo is a higher education consultant, award-winning journalist, and a contributing editor at The Atlantic, and his writing has also appeared in TheWashington Post, The New York Times, and TheWall Street Journal. He is a special advisor to the president of Arizona State University and a visiting scholar at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Selingo is the bestselling author of There Is Life After College, College (Un)Bound, and Who Gets In and Why. He lives in Washington, DC, with his family.