Sound advice for the college-bound

I quite like this little paperback. It has both beguiling irreverence and sound information. "Playing the Private College Admissions Game," by Richard Moll (Penguin Books, $3.95), is fun reading even if you aren't interested in getting yourself or your child into a highly selective school.

But it's "must" reading if you are.

You'll learn, for example, that Harvard/Radcliffe were (or should that be the singular was?) the most selective in 1979 for the class of 1983. They (or it) admitted only 17 percent of those who applied.But Amherst wasn't far behind, with 18 percent, or Princeton, with 20 percent, or Stanford and Yale, with 21 percent.

Of course, some 13,080 applied to Harvard/Radcliffe, and only 3,580 to Amherst. Since Harvard accepted 2,249, this means that 10,831 potential Harvard students were "rejected" (a word almost never used by college admissions directors). Amherst had to say "no" to 2,922 applicants.

But this statistics-packed volume gives more than numbers; it suggests strategies, and recommends which colleges lean more to school grades, to rank in class, to test scores, to teacher recommendations, to extracurricular activities , and so on.

Since test scores have been in for so much attention (and abuse), Mr. Moll gives considerable space to explaining their effect on college admissions decisions. Let's follow Princeton, as explained in this book. Test scores are given a "B" rating (scale A to D) at Princeton.

And a chart shows that Princeton admitted only 60 percent of applicants with SAT verbal scores higher than 750 (401 applied and 239 of those were accepted), and 42 percent of those with SAT math scores over 750 (1,452 applied and 613 of these were accepted). Princeton even admitted nine students whose verbal scores were under 400, but only one student made it in with a math score under 400.

But enough said. If you're in the 10th or 11th grade and beginning to look at the highly selective private colleges, then you might well browse through this paperback. It might save you a great deal of time and anxiety; it also might encourage you to begin looking into less-selective schools.

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