A is for Admission: The Insider's Guide To Getting Into the Ivy League and Other Top Colleges

by Michele A. Hernandez

Published by Warner Books

288 Pages, 1999

Buy it online





Ivy League Fever

Reviewed by Jonathan Shipley


The Ivy League. It creates a lot of images in people's minds. Prestige. Rigorous academics. Top-class instructors. Expense. High profile. Scholars. Harvard. Brown. Dartmouth. Yale. Getting into these schools, to some prospective students, must seem like breaking out of a high-security prison: very difficult to impossible. But, now, Michele Hernandez, with her new book A is for Admission makes it feel within grasp of mere mortals.

Hernandez, a graduate of Dartmouth, earned her Master's degree from Columbia and thus knows a thing or two about the Ivy League and how it works. She was the assistant director of admissions at Dartmouth College from 1992 to 1997. Currently, she is the dean of the faculty and chair of the English Department at North Broward Preparatory Schools in Coconut Creek, Florida. So, she knows her schooling and she knows how to get into those prestigious schools. In A is for Admission she tells the rest of us how.

Step-by-step, we go through the acceptance process. We learn how the application is read, how it is interpreted, and how it is rated by the admissions committee. Throughout, she shows readers just what it takes to stand out among the throngs of qualified contenders.

Despite the fact that most people are convinced that wealth, fame, and position in society will be looked upon as positive factors in the Ivy League admissions process, this is simply not the case anymore. The tendency at all the Ivies is to reward students from very humble backgrounds who have gone above and beyond their means in order to succeed academically.

With candor and honesty, we learn the secrets. The reader learns when to start preparing for admission, when to take the important tests, what extracurricular activities are looked favorably upon and what course load one should take.

Parents often ask about the importance of doing community-service work. I think many students are convinced that if they do one mission trip to Ecuador, they will be immediately accepted because of their ability to help change the world and make it a better place. The problem is that many high schools require community service, so officers are not going to be impressed that the student was forced to commit a certain number of hours to helping the community.

The reader learns that prospective students will have to go above and beyond the norm to reach another level of applicants: those that will be accepted.

Indispensable for any student wanting to get into an Ivy League school, or any college for that matter, A is for Admission tells us how to get there. It's fascinating to finally learn of the existence of the "Academic Index" and the premium placed on standardized tests as well as the special considerations given to athletes, children of alumni, celebrities, and applicants from minority groups. A is for Admission admits the reader into the admissions world and the reader will be thankful for it: especially if they manage to get that acceptance letter to the prestigious university they've had their eye on. | September 1999


Jonathan Shipley is a graduate of Washington State University and the editor of the literary magazine Odin's Eye.