What Colleges Don’t Tell You

WARNING: this book provokes moral outrage and may make you feel like you’re a bad parent with dumb kids.

Book Recommendation Series: The third Monday of every month, we recommend amazing books on learning and the college process, every one guaranteed mind-blowing.

Are you familiar with the idea of threshold concepts? The great Don Lubach just introduced me to them. They’re the crucial ideas that totally change the way you think about the field you’re studying: you can’t go on without them.

For fun this week, I’ve been thinking of examples of threshold concepts: the subjunctive mood in Spanish, the ollie in skateboarding, and the importance of time management in study skills.

My favorite threshold concept in the selective college admissions process is the fact that we live in a big country and a big world.

If you don’t understand how underqualified you look next to the most accomplished kids you’re competing with for a spot or scholarship at your highly-ranked college, or how many of those kids there are in the United States – let alone on Earth – you have no chance of finding the inspiration to work hard enough to write a sufficiently inspiring admissions essay to overcome those résumé deficiencies.

What Colleges Don’t Tell You (And Other Parents Don’t Want You to Know), by Elizabeth Wissner-Gross, is that concept in book form. It details all the strategies that the hardest-core parents of the most accomplished students (on paper) use to help their kids come out ahead when it comes time to apply to college.

If you went to an Ivy League school and you think your kid is a legacy shoo-in, even though they’re not quite as smart as you, don’t work nearly as hard, aren’t as organized, and are more spoiled, you need this book. If your high school doesn’t have lots of wealthy and/or Asian students – preferably both – you need this book.

But if those two examples don’t resonate with you, don’t read this book because it’ll just bum you out! This book is for families aiming for the Ivy League and up. The only two reasons for reading it are out of a need to compete with those families or out of morbid curiosity to see how the other half lives.

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