What High Schools Don’t Tell You is our August and September book club reading.The book review that appears below was written by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
Anyone who has ever applied to college knows the process is somewhat of a mystery. But if this is your first encounter with the procedure, it’s probably an even bigger mystery for you, one that’s filled with a myriad of not only questions but mixed emotions as well. Further adding to the uncertainty is the idea that while you have grown to be a very mature and sensible person who has done his or her best throughout high school, scored well on the SAT or ACT, and participated in extracurricular and community service activities, you’ll still be subjected to the judgments of strangers who you probably have never even met! To make matters worse, you don’t even know who your competitors are!
What High Schools Don’t Tell You by Elizabeth Wissner-Gross peels back the layers of uncertainty to reveal what really goes on during the college admissions process, and offers a step by step guide to success in what is often the most competitive experience many people will ever face in their lives. Readers are invited to follow the author’s proven formula to maximize their (or their children’s) high school years and put them in a position to attain admission into their top choice colleges.
One of the great qualities of this book is that the information is not presented as an exercise in trying to fit every college applicant into the same generic mold. The book’s premise is based on the idea that success in the college admissions game and long-term happiness in life are achieved when a student follows his or her true passion. For this reason, the first chapter is entirely devoted to providing parents with ideas on how to help teens identify their own true passions, rather than telling them what they should be passionate about to make themselves appealing to colleges.
The twelve chapters of the book are divided into two parts:
Part I (Chapters 1-4): The Secret to College Admissions Success? You Have to Have a Game Plan focuses on short and long term goal setting, and offers strategies to meet those goals. This section provides a framework into which the reader can “plug in” the resources provided in Part II of the book.
Contrary to traditional thinking, planning for college is not something that should be left until your junior or senior year of high school. Successful college planning starts the summer before you even step foot into high school as a freshman. Building a solid four-year academic plan—which includes challenging yourself through a rigorous curriculum, summer programs (starting the summer between 8th and 9th grade), and extracurricular activities—is tremendously important; it shows that you’ve taken advantage of the opportunities around you and “challenged yourself to the fullest,” a quality sought out by almost every college admissions counselor.
Part II(Chapters 5-12): The Amazing Array: Finding the Best Opportunities for Your Kid is a compilation of opportunities, resources, competitions, and awards in specific subject areas that will help to bolster resumes and improve chances of admission. Opportunities are organized into the following seven categories: Mathematics; Science and Engineering; The Arts; The Humanities; Journalism, Media, and Advocacy; Government; and Business.