The Things I Learned in College by Sean-Michael Green

The Things I Learned in College

My Year in the Ivy League
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A former Marine, who earned college degrees as a commuter, recounts living at each Ivy League school during an academic year in this memoir/guide.

After his four-year stint in the Marines, straight out of high school, formerly “academically horrible” Green (Marching to College: Turning Military Experience into College Admissions, 2004) transformed into a “college freak/snob,” earning several degrees, including from Ivy League schools. Yet because he had been an older commuter student, Green, who now works in higher education administration, felt he “never had the student experience.” This account reflects his attempt to rectify that situation by residing for 30 days at each Ivy League school during the 2004-05 academic year. He offers conversational sketches on school culture and lore, social encounters, and more, covering visits in chronological order: Cornell (stunning scenery, rollicking fraternity parties, “a sense of inferiority”), Brown (Ralph Nader speech, a cappella, a strip club), Dartmouth (lived in off-campus housing dubbed “The Experiment,” “adopted” by a sorority), Yale (was his mysterious student contact a secret society member?), University of Pennsylvania ( “obnoxious” tour guide Barry), Columbia (Barnard, bagels, marching band), Penn again (requested to return after blogging about Barry), Harvard (nearby MIT students were friendlier), and Princeton (an inspiring valedictorian speech, Nader’s reappearance as a visiting alumnus). While specifically referring to Cornellians, Green’s general takeaway from his experience was that all students were “complex, more thoughtful and talented than any caricature can express.” The account is naturally a bit dated, with the controversy over Lawrence Summer’s then-presidency, for example, taking up part of the Harvard entry. Yet the author also manages to capture a sense of the distinct underlying, evergreen flavor of each school, thus offering helpful intelligence that could prove useful to college-bound students and their parents. His writing style is also highly engaging and entertaining, with dry wit infusing this book, including teeing up each chapter with a school-specific iteration of the classic light bulb joke (at Harvard, apparently, only one student is needed, because “he just holds it up and the world turns around him”).

Amusing, insightful snapshots of Ivy League variegations.

Page count: 235pp
Publisher: The Leigh Publishing Comp
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2016


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