Fat Envelope Frenzy: One Year, Five Promising Students, and the Pursuit of the Ivy League Prize

Overview

A former Ivy League admissions officer, Joie Jager-Hyman follows five bright and eager high schoolers—students from diverse ethnic, social, and financial backgrounds—as they each put their best foot forward on the road they hope will lead them to the hallowed halls of Harvard University.

At once a remarkable true story of dedication, achievement, and heartbreak and a guide for success in an ultra-competitive environment, this important work deserves a place in the home of every ...

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Fat Envelope Frenzy

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Overview

A former Ivy League admissions officer, Joie Jager-Hyman follows five bright and eager high schoolers—students from diverse ethnic, social, and financial backgrounds—as they each put their best foot forward on the road they hope will lead them to the hallowed halls of Harvard University.

At once a remarkable true story of dedication, achievement, and heartbreak and a guide for success in an ultra-competitive environment, this important work deserves a place in the home of every family that has ever dreamed of receiving that coveted “fat envelope” in the mail. Jager-Hyman also offers a startlingly frank appraisal of the college admission process and the important roles race and class continue to play in a student's efforts to attend the best school possible.

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Editorial Reviews

Wall Street Journal
“[A]n engaging and informative book that every parent with a high-school student will want to read.”
Sally Rubenstone
“Jager-Hyman’s engaging stories of real students provide a much-needed reminder that the road taken may mean more than the destination, and—-whatever the college-admission outcomes—there are many such roads to happiness and success.”
Naomi Wolf
“Fat Envelope Frenzy will rivet all readers and make everyone who applies to an Ivy League college - whether they are accepted or not - feel infinitely better and infinitely wiser. Unmissable.”
Sally Rubenstone
"Jager-Hyman’s engaging stories of real students provide a much-needed reminder that the road taken may mean more than the destination, and—-whatever the college-admission outcomes—there are many such roads to happiness and success."
Naomi Wolf
"Fat Envelope Frenzy will rivet all readers and make everyone who applies to an Ivy League college - whether they are accepted or not - feel infinitely better and infinitely wiser. Unmissable."
Wall Street Journal
"[A]n engaging and informative book that every parent with a high-school student will want to read."
Publishers Weekly

A former admissions officer at Dartmouth, Jager-Hyman decided to select five "promising" high school seniors and follow their progress through the college application process. She'd been concerned with what she calls "fat envelope frenzy" ("fat envelope" refers to the fact that acceptance brings many pages of info and forms to fill out, while rejection is just a single-page letter) and an obsession with accomplishment "predicated on the myth that college admission is contingent solely on merit." On the contrary, Jager-Hyman says, colleges have many conflicting admissions objectives, making their policies "confusing." Jager-Hyman then introduces the five high school students she's chosen to follow. Four of the five are incredible overachievers: in addition to nearly perfect grades and test scores, one's an Olympics-bound gymnast, one's a world-class pianist, one's a talented engineering student, and another's an Ethiopian-American math whiz. The fifth, a plucky Dominican-American, has lower scores and grades; her struggle for admission to the Ivies is more complicated, but potentially more instructive. Jager-Hyman follows all five through the emotional high points of the process-deciding where to apply, writing essays, going for interviews, awaiting the fat envelopes and then deciding which to accept. There are few surprises; all these talented students end up going to great schools. In the end, Jager-Hyman's book is padded with too many asides, and she offers little "insider" admissions advice. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Jager-Hyman, a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a former member of the Dartmouth Admissions Board, takes us on a journey into the selection process of America's Ivy League schools by following five students who apply to Harvard. Felix is an Asian American straight-A student, Andrew is a prep-school star displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Lisa is a nationally ranked gymnast from one of the country's best public high schools, Marlene is a Dominican American student from a low-income family, and Nabil is an Ethiopian American math whiz from Memphis. Jager-Hyman looks at all aspects of the admissions process, from test preparation to the value of extracurricular activities, also examining what role class, race, legacy (alumni or benefactor), and intelligence (SAT and GPA) play in students' acceptance into the Ivy League schools. She invites us to read the students' essays, sit in on their interviews, accompany them on their campus visits, and, finally, witness the highly anticipated moment of their acceptance, rejection, or deferral. Recommended for libraries with strong education, college, or career collections.-Mary C. Allen, Everett P.L., WA

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061257162
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/11/2008
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 499,279
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Joie Jager-Hyman worked at Dartmouth College as Assistant Director of Admissions. She is pursuing a doctorate in administration, planning, and social policy in higher education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt


Fat Envelope Frenzy
One Year, Five Promising Students, and the Pursuit of the Ivy League Prize

By Joie Jager-Hyman HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008
Joie Jager-Hyman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061257162

Chapter One

"He's quiet and, of course, wants to be a doctor"
Felix

Felix Zhang is wearing one of his many Harvard sweatshirts. "I've always loved the school," he says, "not just because it's Harvard, but because it has everything in one place." It is the third week of September. Felix and I are eating chocolate brownies in the Barnes & Noble café in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, a posh suburb fifteen miles west of Philadelphia. Berwyn is on the Main Line, a term that is shorthand for desirable real estate. Many wealthy families in the greater Philadelphia metropolitan region seek out this cluster of exclusive suburban towns in close proximity to the convenient commuter rail.

At first glance, Berwyn could easily be caricatured as the perfect place to raise a family. With large homes and manicured lawns, more than half of the residents are married with children. The town is remarkably homogenous: most residents are rich (the median family income is about $90,000 a year, almost twice as much as the average American household earns) and white (a whopping 92.26 percent). Only 2 percent of Berwynites are Asian American like Felix.

Felix embodies the term "big teddy bear." It's not just physical. Though he is broadly built with an innocent round face, the gentle teddy bear vibe actually resonates from deepwithin. He's friendly to everyone, the kind of kid the other kids feel safe asking for help with their homework.

Felix has been preparing to go to Harvard for sixteen years, and there's no question that he's done everything right. Going into his senior year, he has already received a perfect score of 5 on Advanced Placement tests in Physics, Calculus, American History, European History, Statistics, English Language and Composition, and Biology. He also has straight As in all of his accelerated courses and a 780 in Math, 750 in Critical Reading, and 710 on the Writing sections of the SAT.

Felix knows that it takes more than just good grades and test scores to get into Harvard, and at only sixteen years old, he is already a distinguished pianist, whose talent has taken him across the globe, from Cincinnati to China. He has been a featured soloist on National Public Radio on more than one occasion, and at the age of fourteen, he was the youngest student selected to study at the Julliard School International Summer Music Academy in Leipzig, Germany. Felix has also performed for some of the world's best musicians, including Harvard professor Robert Levin, for whom he will play in the fall. Faculty endorsements are rare in the under¬graduate admissions process because very few teenagers have the capacity to make an impression on the top experts in a given field. If all goes well, a positive review from Professor Levin could distinguish Felix's application and carry considerable weight with the Harvard admissions committee.

Despite his impressive musical accomplishments, Felix is seeking an alternative professional path. "People who do music have a need to share their music," he explains. "I don't really feel that need. Even though I love piano, I also want to do other things." Like both of his parents, Felix plans to become a physician and has been doing research with a renowned professor at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia for the past several years. Though it is not uncommon for Ivy League applicants to have some experience in academic research, Felix's work really stands out. He was even named as the lead author on a paper that the lab recently submitted to a prestigious peer-reviewed journal, a distinction that is usually reserved for hardworking graduate students or professors themselves. The study was designed to investigate whether estrogen substitutes inhibit neuronal cell death associated with Alzheimer's disease in postmenopausal women. Most teenage boys don't even know what postmenopausal means.

Though piano and research are two of Felix's primary passions, he is also involved with a myriad of other activities outside of his classes at Conestoga High School, which has been consistently recognized as one of the best public schools in the state. He is a volunteer EMT at the Berwyn Fire Department, captain of the quiz bowl, debate, and model UN teams, editor in chief/founder of SciSpot Online Science Magazine (his school's first science-focused newsletter), president/founder of Young Artists for People (a club that organizes talented high school musicians to perform in local retirement homes), and a three-year veteran of the Student Council.

On the surface, it might seem that Felix is a shoo-in for admission to Harvard. However, as an Asian American, Felix is also a member of a group that is overrepresented in the Harvard applicant pool, which could be a disadvantage in the admissions process. In the past two decades, selective colleges have been repeatedly accused of a bias against Asian Americans, and several students have gone so far as to file official complaints with the federal government at the Office for Civil Rights. No university has ever been convicted of discrimination, but an investigation into the admissions process at Harvard in the early 1990s uncovered a number of offensive remarks written by the staff in regard to Asian American candidates, including glib descriptions such as "he's quiet and, of course, wants to be a doctor."

A more recent study published in Social Science Quarterly, which analyzed data from 124,374 applicants to three highly selective colleges, found that qualified Asian American students had lower admission rates at these top schools than any other group of students. In addition to being overrepresented in the applicant pool, Asian Americans also tend to be excluded from many of the institutional priorities that guide the selective college admissions process. As immigrants or children of immigrants, they may be less likely to have a parent who attended a selective American college and may not benefit from the advantages of legacy in college admissions. They also do not qualify for most affirmative action programs and are a rarity on athletic teams. In fact, the only category in which Asian American students are likely to be given a boost in the admissions process is for high SAT scores, which is still a key variable in admissions decisions. Even so, the researchers projected that eliminating preferences based on legacy, race, and athletics would increase Asian American acceptances by approximately 30 percent at the three highly selective schools they studied.



Continues...


Excerpted from Fat Envelope Frenzy by Joie Jager-Hyman Copyright © 2008 by Joie Jager-Hyman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Introduction     ix
Author's Note     xvii
"He's quiet and, of course, wants to be a doctor"     1
"If colleges look at absences, I'm pretty much screwed"     24
"Success breeds success"     51
"I'm scared I'll like the school too much"     74
"Waiting suuuuucks!"     94
"Congratulations, you were rejected"     113
"This isn't supposed to be an endurance test"     133
"No rejections...yet:)"     156
"I have an Asian fan club"     180
"It's okay if you need to stop by a metaphorical gas station and get directions"     200
Resources: How to Use "How To" Books     219
Acknowledgments     223
Selected Bibliography     225
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 13, 2009

    So Helpful

    Joie Jager-Hyman brought made the admissions process seem less freightening. Reading the stories of these students made me feel like I wasn't alone. Every Junior and Senior should read this book as well as their parents.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2009

    A+

    I really enjoyed this book! It was both informative and interesting!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2008

    A reviewer

    I enjoyed reading this book very much. I literally couldn't put it down. This book is not only informative and educational, but it is gripping and extremely interesting as well. The five students followed are each dynamic, inspirational characters, and the author does a beautiful job of illustrating their complexities. I highly recommend this book both to those interested in the college admission process and to those who enjoy reading well- written stories about extraordinary real people.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2009

    Great insight

    This book gave great insight into the college application process. Loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2009

    great book

    really informative, enjoyable and kindly written. a must read for potential college students.

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