I was not engaged in the fat envelope frenzy myself, which in retrospect I think is a little sad. I wish I'd worked harder in high school, and had people supporting and encouraging me, and better Guidance. (If they'd told me to fill out one freakin' form, I could have had a scholarship, but because I was in a vocational program--performing arts--I missed the college prep sessions. That's pretty bad, right? Granted more of us kids in the arts that rode the tech bus were probably headed to college than those going to auto mechanics and cosmetology programs, but there's a bit of a chicken and egg argument to be made.) I probably ended up in the right place for what I needed--smallish school, college town, but sometimes I wonder... My nephew made a comment when he was a high school senior that it doesn't matter/schools are all the same, or some such thing. I hated to burst his bubble, but that is simply not true. I think all schools have different things to offer, not so much that they're better or worse than one another. But it's easy for me to speak about college admission from the distance of twenty plus years after writing my applications.
However, I do spend 40 hours or so a week on a college campus, and one that is pretty selective at that, so the college experience isn't far from my mind. When I see how smart and motivated Barnard students are, I regret not having their maturity when I was in college. The five students profiled in Fat Envelope Frenzy are plenty smart and motivated, and I think for the most part mature. I have to admit I teared up a little on each of their behalf's as they opened their fat and skinny envelopes and emails or logged onto jammed college website on notification day. I found myself genuinely invested in four of them (the one white profilee from a prestigious Catholic high school a little less so). Although I'm recommending this book, I did sometimes wish that the case studies weren't undercut by the sub-theme of illuminated the admissions process and advising parents and kids how to get into school. Formerly an admissions officer at Dartmouth, I'm sure Jager-Hyman couldn't help herself. She both needed to defend the institutions and to her credit to a greater degree soothe parents and students fears and insecurities. Jager-Hyman comes off as likable as her students even though--in a PhD program--she didn't insert herself into the narrative too often. I might have liked a more academic book, actually.