At last -- the secret behind 'getting into college'

In December and January: Send your financial aid (FAF) statement to the CSS; complete all application forms; visit any colleges you've not visited before; have interviews with admissions officers.

"Getting into college" is the name of the game, and also the name of an extremely useful little paperback ("Getting Into College," by Frank C. Leana. New York: Hill & Wang. $5.95) authored by the director of counseling at Trinity , an independent prep school in New York City.

Many high school juniors and seniors may well wonder why anyone is anxious at all about getting into college since from what they hear (and may even know firsthand) there are plenty of colleges out beating the brush looking for students).

Ah, but there are a few colleges which make a large to do about selecting their freshman class from a fairly large field -- and some of these colleges actually turn down more students who are qualified to attend than they accept.

Therefore, it's the competition for admission into these highly selective institutions which stimulates the writing of such a book.

"Getting Into College" is extremely well organized. It does carry all the general information one would ever need to play the get-into-the-college-of-your-choice game.

Yet, this freshly written paperback has one very serious fault in the eyes of this reviewer. And curiously, this fault is connected to its very usefulness as a get-into-college tool.

The author appears to be completely absorbed by the standard steps in college admissions which assume that all prep school students are something of a liability, and that it is incumbent on each one to prove to at least one chosen institution that he or she will prove to be more of an asset than a liability when they actually get on campus.

In other words, it's up to the student to convince a college to accept him or her.

Since college-counselor Leana hasn't told readers the real secret of college admissions, this reviewer will do so in the next few paragraphs, urging high school juniors and seniors interested in going on to colleges (both selective and not-so-selective nevertheless to heed what Mr. Leana writes in his book. We'll start with a true story;

The director of admissions for a very highly selective women's college (enjoying and deserving a reputation for academic excellence) was telling a group of fellow admissions officers about recruitment efforts she had initiated. She stopped at one point and remarked, "Of course, you're not looking for the same type of student."

The uproar was instantaneous. Oh yes we are, was their quick response. Just like you, we can find all the solid "C" students we want and are proud to get. But just like you, we know there are only a finite number of really bright, academically motivated, socially adjusted, and potentially wealthy alumni graduating from US secondary schools, and we want the same ones you want.

It really has been an awfully well kept secret -- that it's not the students who are looking for the college-of-their-choice, but that it's the colleges which are looking for the students-of-their-choice.

No fooling. Don't put the humble look on. Don't act as though there was something intrinsically wrong with you which needs either to be covered up or swamped by "other redeeming qualities."

You students are the ones who can pick and choose.

A young high school friend of mine wants to come out of college both liberally educated and with a running start on a business career.

How many of you colleges and universities can give her this in her undergraduate years? How many of you are prepared to pick her up in her development at her present point of maturity? How many of you treat each student as a precious individual?

How many can point to graduates by the score who are more than satisfied with the broad liberal-arts background and with the marvelous start they got in a business career in your institution?

You see how it goes, students! You can start asking the questions. And you can begin demanding that some sort of proven record be put forth by each institution willing to take your application fee.

Make them earn their money if they want the student-of-their-choice, in order to give you the college of yours.

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