By M. Stephanie Murray
Advice ya' should've gotten when you were 17
In the world of college admissions, there are those who prepare and those who coast. I fell into the latter category. In the fall of my senior year, I was busy writing bad poetry and looking for the perfect blue-black hair dye; in the spring of that year, I had a full social calendar of kissing boys and smoking cigarettes. Members of the other category spent that year writing personal essays, taking the SAT and the ACT, visiting prospective schools and generally being responsible, college-bound kids.
The Kaplan/Newsweek publication, How to Get into College, is meant for that hyper-competent first group.
For the rest of us, HTGIC works as a chatty, People-esque sampler of everyone else's adventures in admissions. People-esque is the key descriptor here, since this is basically just a very expensive ($5.95) magazine. But it has nice pictures, between the 12 million Army and Discover card ads.
Not that there's not real information here. Every article focuses on a different aspect of the application process. For example, one's top picks for schools should be based on size, environment, academic specialties and social opportunities. (Had I only known ... I almost went to Wooster just because I thought the name was funny.) The benefits of early application are assessed. An interesting pair of articles present the arguments against the "hot spots," schools currently popular because of famous attendees or athletic accomplishments, as well as a look at those "hot" schools and their current celebrity students. (Because I know you want to know, this is the only article in which our fair campus is listed: "Miles Simon: One of the top basketball players in the country, he led his college team to the 1997 NCAA Championship. He's a senior.")
For all the soft-profiles of success stories (the girl who committed academic suicide her sophomore year, yet went on to lobby her way into UMass, the football player who turned down athletic scholarships because he wanted to be a history teacher), this is not a publication for high-school seniors; it's for high-school seniors' moms. The article on financial aid and the surprises in store for middle-class parents is necessary but scary. Kaplan/Newsweek kindly follows this with a list of bargain-priced schools.
There's also a diagnostic SAT/ACT test, which I took (I also can't ignore a Cosmo quiz). I did very well on the Verbal sections (although I would argue a couple of the usage answers), but there's something very sad going on when a college senior like me cringes and quickly turns the page when confronted with the sample ACT Science Reasoning and Math section.
Don't be fooled by the heft of this magazine. The last hundred or so pages are dedicated to the "Kaplan College and University Directory," a state-by-state listing of just about every college you can think of. Yes, the UA is here, too, with a report on student body statistics, tuition costs and selectivity. Useful, to a high-school senior's mom.
For the rest of us, since we're all already here, this magazine is a rueful look back. Had I even the tiniest smidge of ambition, maybe I really would be at Wooster. I don't want my apathetic destiny to be visited upon the next generation; I'm sending a copy of HTGIC to my 17-year-old cousin (and his mom). I suggest you do the same.