An alternative approach to college admissions, focused more on self-knowledge than tests, essays, and recommendations.

Admissions by Design


A college counselor advises students on a more mindful approach to choosing a college and career.

In this debut, Fisher draws on nearly two decades of work as a counselor to indict the college admissions industry and encourage students to set and achieve goals unhindered by the current system’s constraints. She writes that “not nearly enough students have any ‘particular purpose’ beyond seeking admission when they complete their applications,” so she offers a series of exercises to help them determine their interests, values, and strengths in order to move beyond simply getting into college. The book’s opening chapters explore what she calls the “Culture of Crazy”—an atmosphere of achievement and credentialism designed to secure admission to selective colleges. After encouraging students to understand the nature of the system, Fisher urges them to challenge their assumptions and adapt, offering guidance on shifting one’s “mental models,” employing “design thinking,” and taking a mindful approach to goal-setting. Each chapter includes exercises designed to help readers understand and shape their ideas on life goals, changing interests, and intrinsic motivation, among other topics. Although the book’s intended audience includes high-achieving students and their parents, Fisher asks them to consider that alternative paths, such as community colleges, foreign universities, or unschooling, may be a better fit for them. She reminds readers at several points that her book is not a guide to the mechanics of applying to college, although it does include a list of resources for doing so at the end. Readers looking for a more holistic approach to the question of higher education will find this book a useful tool. However, it’s limited by the fact that although it offers “an inspired way to think about and approach the act of applying,” it can’t change the existing structure in which one submits those applications. Fisher’s writing is clear and coherent, though, and the book’s organization makes it easy for readers to follow all its steps or to focus on the most relevant ones. Its guidance will be useful to those pursuing an unconventional path after high school, but many who are planning a traditional college career may find it valuable as well.

An alternative approach to college admissions, focused more on self-knowledge than tests, essays, and recommendations.

Pub Date: March 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943425-08-2

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Elevate

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2016

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.


A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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American schools at every level, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, have substituted ideological indoctrination for education, charges conservative think-tanker Sowell (Senior Fellow/Hoover Institution; Preferential Polices, 1990, etc.) in this aggressive attack on the contemporary educational establishment. Sowell's quarrel with "values clarification" programs (like sex education, death-sensitizing, and antiwar "brainwashing") isn't that he disagrees with their positions but, rather, that they divert time and resources from the kind of training in intellectual analysis that makes students capable of reasoning for themselves. Contending that the values clarification programs inspired by his archvillain, psychotherapist Carl Rogers, actually inculcate values confusion, Sowell argues that the universal demand for relevance and sensitivity to the whole student has led public schools to abdicate their responsibility to such educational ideals as experience and maturity. On the subject of higher education, Sowell moves to more familiar ground, ascribing the declining quality of classroom instruction to the insatiable appetite of tangentially related research budgets and bloated athletic programs (to which an entire chapter, largely irrelevant to the book's broader argument, is devoted). The evidence offered for these propositions isn't likely to change many minds, since it's so inveterately anecdotal (for example, a call for more stringent curriculum requirements is bolstered by the news that Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton without taking any courses in economics, math, biology, chemistry, history, sociology, or government) and injudiciously applied (Sowell's dismissal of student evaluations as responsible data in judging a professor's classroom performance immediately follows his use of comments from student evaluations to document the general inadequacy of college teaching). All in all, the details of Sowell's indictment—that not only can't Johnny think, but "Johnny doesn't know what thinking is"—are more entertaining than persuasive or new.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-930330-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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