Book Review: The Gatekeepers by Jacques Steinberg

Sam is a seventeen-year-old from Montgomery, NJ. When she isn’t obsessing over the New Jersey Devils, Sam is doing charity work, reading magazines, and hanging with friends. She also wishes to make an imprint on the world in the future.

 

If you are like me, a senior in high school, you are probably obsessing over your college applications, struggling to write the perfect essay, polishing your laundry list of extracurriculars, and scrambling to find teachers that will write a stellar recommendation. In the midst of all this you may wonder, How will I get into my dream school? What aspect of my application is the reason I might get into (enter school name here)?

 

During the summer, the vice principal of my school recommended Jacques Steinberg’s The Gatekeepers as a guide for students to understand the college admissions process. This book documents the path of Ralph Figueroa, an admissions officer for Wesleyan University, one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges. Throughout The Gatekeepers, Ralph treks all across the nation to spark interest in Wesleyan for applicants, and reads hundreds of applications in order to determine Wesleyan’s Class of 2004.

 

This book also documents the application processes of six students. The students come from various schools, ethnicities, economic backgrounds, and life stories. Some get into Wesleyan, others don’t. Nonetheless, all six of these students- from a Harvard-Westlake student who writes her essay about accepting a pot brownie, to a Staten Island writer who wants to make a name for himself-are real. Their essays are real, their passions are real, and their excitement (or heartbreak) is real.

 

Throughout the book Steinberg subliminally shows what a top college may be looking for, and the tools that could put a student over the edge. He explains what Wesleyan likes and dislikes in each candidate’s application, and explains why one may get in over another. It becomes clear that the reason that an applicant is accepted or rejected from a school is on a case-by-case basis, and therefore hard to pinpoint.

 

Overall, I found The Gatekeepers to be a great book for students wondering how the college admissions process works and what they can do to help improve their chances of getting into their dream school. Of course, being that this was written in 2002, and the information involved applicants from the 1999-2000 school year, certain details of the process (i.e. SAT scores out of 1600, less schools that accept the Common Application, etc.) have since been changed. Still, this book gave me better insight as to what I need to do to improve my chances of acceptance, as well as what my school can do to help students achieve optimal success.

 

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