Book Review: America’s Elite Colleges

America’s Elite Colleges: The Smart Applicant’s Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools

co-authored by Dave Berry
Paperback – 352 pages, Random House, 2001

This book is a cut above those with similar titles… some of the best advice I’ve read recently about how to get into an Ivy League or other elite school. The section on the essay is superb…

-Robert Calvert Jr, College Spotlight

I still go back and read portions of it! It is very useful, and it’s fun, too! I used the personality profile on my mom and dad and we had a good laugh about our results, since they were really acurate!

-R.R., 10th Grader

(Readers are cautioned – this review is written by Dave Berry! See equal time provision below!)If you can buy only one book about college admissions, this is the one to get! How’s that for self-serving rhetoric? Seriously, this is our baby. We labored long and hard on this volume to bring out the essence of what applicants and parents need to know about getting into the most competitive colleges in America. It’s harder than you think, and it’s getting harder every year.

What’s inside America’s Elite Colleges? Here’s the table of contents:

America’s Elite Colleges – Table of Contents



Part I: The Challenge

  • Chapter 1: Class of ’05: Toughest Ticket Yet
  • Chapter 2: Colleges and Consumers

Part II: The Quest

  • Chapter 3: Ivy Babies: Preparing for Excellence
  • Chapter 4: Dartmouth or the Dartboard: Targeting the Top
  • Chapter 5: Twenty-One Questions and a Ballpark: Take a Temperament Snapshot
  • Chapter 6: The Master Plan (Part 1): Strategies and Tactics
  • Chapter 7: The Master Plan (Part 2): Ivy Applications
  • Chapter 8: Essays We Have Known Elsewhere

Part III: The Quandary

  • Chapter 9: The Master Plan (Part 3): The Waiting Game
  • Chapter 10: Rejections, Deferrals, and Wait Lists: A Plan B for Success
  • Chapter 11: The Money Monster

Part IV: The Journey

  • Chapter 12: Finally, the Right College!

Epilogue: The Hardest Part is Getting In

Endnote: We’d like to hear from you.

A Very Brief Glossary

College-Process Resources

Elite College Profiles

How about a sample? Here’s a peek at the first page, just to set the tone:

Caution: War Zone, We could have called this book Ivy Passions, Ivy Perils, but we didn’t. Passions? Perils? Sounds like a soap opera. Unfortunately, the competition for seats in the Ivy League and the other top-tier national colleges and universities has all the passions and perils you can handle. Are you targeting any of these schools for admission? If so, buckle your seat belt. It’s going to be a wild ride. And (you didn’t really want to hear this, did you?) the years in the coming decade are going to get successively worse. You’re going to need all the help you can get, thus, our book.

Who Should Read This Book?

This book is for high school students, their parents, and even those students and parents who have years to go before beginning their college process. The information offered here comes from the extensive experiences of a college-wars veteran: Dave Berry has worked for years down in the trenches with many students and families who have gone through the elite-admissions process. Regardless of your need-to-know level, you’ll find practical, valuable information in these pages.

What This Book Can Do for You

Thanks to its many real-life examples-such as actual Ivy League application examples and essays-you’ll be able to see quickly the level at which successful Ivy applicants perform. You’ll also learn an arsenal of strategic and tactical application tips, all of which are useable in your applications, regardless of what colleges are on your candidate list.

Another important aspect of our book is the element of encouragement. Don’t get us wrong; we’re not looking at ultra-competitive college admissions through rose-colored lenses. However, we firmly believe that every year many seniors who are otherwise qualified to compete for seats at the best colleges don’t do so because o one exhorts them to give it a shot. That’s another important aspect of our book. If you’re qualified, we encourage you to stretch.

Don’t misunderstand. We’re very much aware of the fact that every year there are also thousands upon thousands of applications from unqualified seniors piling up in Ivy admission offices across the land. Perhaps one of the more important aspects of our book is its ability to give you a glimpse of your competition. Once you have that data, then you can decide at what level you can realistically compete.


Equal Time Provision: At College Confidential, we’re nothing if not fair. We’ll be printing reviews or excerpts of reviews submitted by readers.