On Campus

Gatekeepers author Jacques Steinberg presents to parents

By Allie Gould
Staff Writer

Following 14 years of experience as a New York Times national education correspondent, Jacques Steinberg presented on December 4 to Upper School parents curious about the college admission process.

Mr. Steinberg, who reported, blogged, and edited for The New York Times for over two decades, also spent a year at Wesleyan University beginning in the fall of 1999, during which he followed admission officer Ralph Figueroa and six college applicants through a full cycle. That experience informed both his best-selling book—The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College—and his presentation at the Upper School Parents’ Association (USPA) event.

“I watched an entire cycle in their office,” he recalled during his presentation. “Nothing was off limits to me as far as I knew.”

The “Perspectives on College Admissions” event featured Mr. Steinberg’s speech as well as a question-and-answer session moderated by Director of College Counseling Amy Selinger. Several parents interviewed said Mr. Steinberg impressed them with his knowledge and openness.
USPA President Patti Goldberger P’07, ’09, ’14 credited her vice president—Cherise Bransfield P’15, who attended Dartmouth College with Mr. Steinberg—for bringing the esteemed journalist to the school.

Adding that Mr. Steinberg’s presentation covered both the basics and the details of a process currently on many parents’ minds, Ms. Bransfield said her former classmate had a strong understanding of his audience.

“He took us through the finer points of college admission and what it entails,” she said. “He was speaking to us [with] a sense that we were the people who were going to help guide our children through the process.”

Calling the admission cycle a “human process,” Mr. Steinberg urged parents to advise kids “to be themselves.”

“There is no formula for college admission,” he said. “It’s not scientific.”
Ms. Bransfield noted that the presentation was not aimed at any specific grade and said she hoped all Upper School parents could benefit from it. Ms. Selinger’s presence proved especially important because she answered questions that pertained more specifically to BB&N, Ms. Bransfield added.

Karen Wang P’14, ’17, who also attended the event, said she enjoyed it.
“Mr. Steinberg was an engaging speaker,” she said, adding that the journalist, who has a daughter in high school, was able to relate well. “The evening was filled with a perfect blend of concrete facts, helpful resources, and funny anecdotes from his experience working with college admission committees.”

Some parents, however, hoped for a bit more from the presentation.
“What would have been a little bit more interesting for me would have been to hear more [about] exactly what happens in the admissions office at colleges when they are reviewing applications and candidates,” said Ms. Goldberger.

Ania Camargo P’16, ’18 said the event did not feel groundbreaking.

“It was informative, and I am glad I attended, but I did not find anything I heard surprising,” she said.

Still, Ms. Bransfield said Mr. Steinberg’s viewpoints offered many audience members valuable insight.

“[The college process is] something that you can never have enough information on,” she said. “I think parents appreciated hearing what someone who had looked at it from so many different perspectives had to say.”

Mr. Steinberg left The New York Times last February and now works to support inner-city schools with the nonprofit organization Say Yes to Education.

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