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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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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