College Admissions Book Review
The Truth about Getting In, by Katherine Cohen, Ph.D.
Hardcover - 256 pages; Hyperion
The title of this new book about college admissions sounds like a tell-all tease about another classic admissions book: Bill Paul's wonderful Getting In: Inside the College Admissions Process. The truth about this book, however, is that it's one of the most thoughtful, comprehensive, and best looking statements on the college admissions process that I've seen in a long time. Of course, my subjective appraisal should also include the caveat, "almost as good as America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Applicant's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, a book in which I have a special interest [*suppressing a smile*].
The Truth's author, Katherine Cohen, Ph.D., made headlines recently in a New York Magazine article. It profiles her glamorous physical appeal, counseling successes, and $29,000 fee (that's not a typo there, folks) for guiding the children of some of Manhattan's wealthier (or more credit worthy) residents through their elite-application paces. Take a quick look at Dr. Cohen's dust jacket photo and you'll understand why she's such a hit with her young clients and their fathers. One source told me that her male clients want to date her and her female clients want to be her. My guess is that the fathers just want to be around her. Oh, yes, the book:
Its 252, small-font, narrow-margined pages comprise 13 well-organized chapters and two helpful appendixes. I like Cohen's approach of setting the stage for each chapter with a series of "Myths and Truths" that dispel a lot of urban legends about the increasingly complex and competitive college admissions process. Complementing the myths and truths are chapter-ending summaries and "Insider Tips" that imprint each chapter's lessons. There's an easy-to-follow chronology running through the chapters, which, by the time one reaches the end, provides a sense of comprehensive closure. In addition to the requisite information on prepping, resources, interviews, testing, and other matters usually covered by this genre, there is an especially insightful and helpful Chapter 13 on special issues. Two of the more interesting special issues are "Student-Athletes and the NCAA" and "Students with Learning Disabilities/Differences or Medical Conditions," areas relatively lightly served among today's college-related titles.
The pure physical production by Hyperion is superior. ("Superion"? Hey, if I ever start my own publishing house, I think I'll call it that!) The feeling I got while reading The Truth was one of subtle elegance and care of craftsmanship. This satisfying tactile and sensory feedback is why, in my view, so-called e-books will never replace the printed page. It feels good to hold a book in one's hands, and, if one is hungry for pertinent and (most importantly) current information about the college-process scene, this is a good book to lay hold of.
Dr. Cohen spends a bit too much ink, I think, establishing her credentials. The quality of the advice forthcoming in her text makes it clear that she knows her stuff. If I were a parent considering a face-to-face college counselor, I would merely look at her track record of success, which seems very impressive. Hundreds of satisfied clients can't be wrong, so she must be highly effective. Maybe it's her staggering fee structure that demands justification. However, for about $16.00 (at Amazon), if you're properly motivated, you can ingest the core of her systematic and well-thought-out approach to college planning and admissions.
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of her book for prospective elite-college applicants is the massive, 50-page Chapter 8: "Writing an Outstanding Essay." I fancy myself an aficionado of high-impact essays and Cohen delivers a kind of magnum opus of the subject, citing good, bad, and ugly examples with insightful commentaries. She even prompts readers to write in their own critical comments before reading what the experts have to say about the essay samples. It's a refreshing approach.
The truth, I think, about The Truth is that it's among the best books of its kind out there today. It will appeal to students (and the parents of students) targeting the broad swath of colleges, from relatively non-competitive state universities to the insanely competitive Ivy League. However, I think The Truth most successfully markets its contents to high-end students reaching for top schools. That seems to be where the action is for titles that allude to "the truth" and an "insider's perspective" about this area of adventure. Well done, Dr. Cohen. Now, whom do I contact for an autographed 8x10 glossy?
-reviewed by Dave Berry