Acceptance: A Legendary Guidance Counselor Helps Seven Kids Find the Right Colleges -- and Find Themselves

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Overview

An engrossing profile of an extraordinary guidance counselor who helps kids get into the right colleges through focusing on self- awareness

Gwyeth Smith, known as Smitty, is a nationally renowned guidance counselor who believes that getting into college should be a kid's first great moment of self-discovery. In Acceptance, David L. Marcus, Pulitzer Prize-winning former education writer for U.S. News & World Report, spins an absorbing ...

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Overview

An engrossing profile of an extraordinary guidance counselor who helps kids get into the right colleges through focusing on self- awareness

Gwyeth Smith, known as Smitty, is a nationally renowned guidance counselor who believes that getting into college should be a kid's first great moment of self-discovery. In Acceptance, David L. Marcus, Pulitzer Prize-winning former education writer for U.S. News & World Report, spins an absorbing narrative of a year in the lives of Smitty and "his" kids.

At a diverse public school in Long Island, New York, Smitty works his unique magic on students' applications and their lives, helping them find the right college by figuring out who they are, rather than focusing on what their test scores, grades, and finances reflect. Loaded with advice that readers can apply to their own college searches, Acceptance is a book that thousands of students and their parents will find indispensable.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The college application process is a time of major anxiety for high school seniors and their parents. Fortunately for all concerned (including administrators, teachers, and private coaches), Marcus, the Pulitzer Prize-winning education writer for U.S. News and World Report, has documented the year he spent at suburban Long Island's Oyster Bay High School closely observing the rather unorthodox college counselor Gwyeth Smith and seven college-bound seniors. In this insider's look at the college application process, Marcus reveals the personal realities the kids and their parents face, the way college decisions are made and how and why Smith manages to ease the powder keg of worry and emotions with good advice, eventually helping make the "right match" for each student. Readers meet all kinds-the kid who doesn't test well; the one who is depressed after an early admission rejection; the high-achieving Asian-American at odds with his parents; the good girl looking for something "different"; the athlete with mediocre grades. In sometimes the most counterintuitive ways, Smith helps them by demonstrating how each has the ability to write good application essays, find their true "passion" and represent themselves as people colleges will want to accept. A wonderfully enjoyable antidote to the spate of books focused on the college admissions "game" of "getting in." (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In this aptly titled book, award-winning journalist Marcus (What It Takes To Pull Me Through) chronicles the efforts of acclaimed guidance counselor Gweyth (pronounced to rhyme with Faith) "Smitty" Smith and seven students to find the best colleges for them. Marcus's revealing group portrait aims to drive home the point that a college's reputation matters less than students' ability to "fit" successfully into its social and academic culture. While Marcus writes that his purpose for profiling Smith was to see how one man teaches students to play the "admissions game" in "the way that charts the best course for their lives," it also appears to be a testament to the therapeutic qualities of writing, highlighting the self-discovery students find through a college essay-writing course. This refreshing look at the college admissions process reads like a novel and is likely to shock parents and overachievers who cling to the notion that admittance is dependent only upon class rank and test scores. VERDICT Marcus's poignant book will have readers wishing that they too had had Smitty as a guidance counselor and rooting for the students profiled. Highly recommended for parents and college-bound students as a good alternative to the standard college admission guides.—Tamela Chambers, Chicago P.L.


—Tamela Chambers
Kirkus Reviews
Another look at the college-admissions process-this time through the experiences of an influential Long Island guidance counselor and seven of his students. When Pulitzer Prize-winning education reporter Marcus moved from U.S. News & World Report to Newsday, he noticed that the area's highest acceptance rates were coming from a relatively small, unknown school-the diverse Oyster Bay High School-and that the mitigating factor was an especially committed counselor named Gwyeth "Smitty" Smith. To determine what made Smitty so successful, Marcus followed him through the process, focusing in particular on seven students. There was the underachieving athlete with the big heart and difficult home life; the engineering hopeful with an overbearing mother; the well-rounded Jewish girl who worried that she wouldn't stand out; the overworked African-American who would be the first in her family to go to college; the intellectual Korean-American who wasn't sure he could live up to his family's expectations; the free-spirited girl who couldn't focus; and the valedictorian who never had to worry. Marcus's portraits are honest and interesting, and some of the outcomes are quite surprising, thanks in part to the counselor who encouraged the students to think outside the box, even when it meant defying parents or preconceived notions about reputation. Smitty is clearly an excellent counselor who goes to great lengths to make sure his students make the right choices-negotiating work hours with a student's employer to make sure she had enough time to study, seeking out admissions officers at conferences to talk about specific students. But while it's encouraging to read about a counselor more committed tothe students' well-being than the number of Ivy League acceptances on his rap sheet, there's nothing particularly revolutionary or illuminating about his practices, and readers may struggle to find a takeaway message that hasn't been covered in countless other college-admissions books-including Jacques Steinberg's The Gatekeepers (2002) and by Jay Mathews's Harvard Schmarvard (2003). Engaging and inspiring, but without significant purpose in an overcrowded topic.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594202148
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 7/23/2009
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.68 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

David L. Marcus is the author of What It Takes to Pull Me Through, a look at the secret lives of teenagers. He has been an education writer and foreign correspondent at U.S. News & World Report, The Boston Globe, the Miami Herald, and The Dallas Morning News, where he was the co-winner of a Pulitzer Prize. After a stint as a high school teacher, he returned to journalism as a writer for Newsday. A graduate of Brown University, Marcus was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. He frequently speaks to schools, churches, and community groups about adolescence, education, and college admissions.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    for parents of high schoolers

    this is a practical and helpful guide to writing college admission letters, and the timeline of the entire college application process. By telling about the experiences of a number of his students during their senior year going through the application, and financial aid process, we get to see a small snapshot of what colleges are looking for, and examples of the different types of kids students will be up against in their quest for the right college. Smitty has had tons of experience helping kids, and knows of a lot of schools the kids would never had thought about checking into. This is more relevant when it comes to Ivy league and east coast admissions, but much of the practical advice is relavant to all seniors applying for college admission.

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