THE SELECT by Howard R. Greene


Realities of Life and Learning in America's Elite Colleges
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This unsurprising, number-crunching survey of almost 4,000 students at America’s best colleges recalls that dullest of freshman classes: Statistics 101. Leading educational counselor and former Princeton admissions officer Greene’s (Scaling the Ivy Wall in the ’90s, with Robert Minton, not reviewed, etc.) concept of the “Select” includes just 20 schools: all the Ivies; top private schools like Stanford and Duke; and three top public schools, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; University of California, Berkeley; and University of Wisconsin, Madison. Together, he reports, these schools account for just 5 percent of all college students, and competition to get in is intense. But the real challenge is funding a “select” education. The average cost of tuition, room, and board at private universities now hovers at around $30,000 a year. These costs have forced increasing numbers of students to work part- or even full-time. This, combined with demanding course loads, has made college for many an unremitting grind, with little time left for those fond foundations of alumni reminiscences, socializing and extracurriculars. This is why Greene touts the leading public universities for cash-strapped students. Of course, as he well knows, this will take many of the private select schools back to their roots as havens for the rich and privileged. Surveying everything from academics to diversity to drugs and alcohol on campus, Greene finds little that is surprising. There are the usual complaints about minimal faculty contact, overwork, and stress. Students are also concerned about safety, think that political correctness may have gone too far, and worry about their futures. But the most frequent complaints are about food and climate. Interestingly, only 61 percent are satisfied they are getting good value for their money, indicating that more than a little collegiate laurel-resting is going on. There is the core of a good idea here, but it’s absolutely buried under mounds of tedious, blandly presented data.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-017815-9
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1998


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