Aidan’s College Quest, David Marcus’ Acceptance

Aidan’s already in high gear with his college applications.  He’s filled out almost all of the standard information for the Common Application, has asked one of the two teachers for the recommendation and started on the central and supplemental essays.

It’s not completely clear how much of his zeal comes from wanting to go to the college of his dreams and how much stems from his desire to leave home, and, either way, his organization and drive are impressive.

Aidan will meet next week with his guidance counselor to discuss his choices and answer questions he has about the process.

Pulitzer Prize winner David Marcus spent a year following Gwyeth Smith, Jr., an outstanding guidance counselor in his final year at Oyster Bay High School in Long Island.  In Acceptance, Marcus paints a sympathetic if somewhat thin portrait of Smitty and seven of the students he ushers through to college admission, and, he hopes, greater levels of self-discovery.

Many thanks to dear friend and fellow parent of a senior Cheryl Flack for yet another useful work.

As many other books in this genre do, Marcus picks a cross-section of students to follow-there is a high-achieving and religiously conflicted Asian, an artsy girl, and a sport boy, to name just three-and a couple of key adults to follow throughout their senior year.

In The Gatekeepers, Jacques Steinberg focused most closely on Wesleyan admissions officer Ralph Figueroa.  Here, Marcus hones in on Smitty, whom he clearly admires.  Smitty combines a down-to-earth and non-judgmental persona with a keen sense of students’ possibilities based on more than three decades of experience.  Some of the book’s more interesting sections covered his and his partner’s urging students to go deep within themselves while writing their college essays (This is a class the pair have taught at the school for years.).  Smitty’s combination of respect for the students’ boundaries of self-exploration and admiration for what many of them endure without complaint come off as authentic.

The students were likable enough, and I found myself struggling to care too deeply about them.  It’s not so much that they lacked engaging personalities, but that I’ve read enough of these works to predict the major elements and know where we are headed.  In this case, we have the unpredictable journey that ends up just fine in the end, the stress of early admissions and the cramming before the January 1 deadline, and the postscript that gives us an update about where folks are now are fine, but did get me in the guts.

Still, I’ve found that most of us are reading these books for nuggets of information, rather than literary style, and Acceptance has a few of those.  For non-senior parents, though, you can easily live without it.


2 responses to “Aidan’s College Quest, David Marcus’ Acceptance

  1. Yo Jeff,

    Clearly your lad is going to do well where ever he lands. Heck, maybe he takes a couple years surfing in Southern Cal before he jumps into reading Marx in German, etc. Aidan doesn’t read your blog, does he? Perhaps I should truly fear the Irish in Dunreith? :-/

    And hopefully you worked the campus tour guides!

    Off to Boston for the long weekend. Dare I see Manny in a White Sox uniform?

    Wonderful tribute to Diane.

    the jack

  2. jeffkellylowenstein3

    Thanks, Jack, as always, for the comment, perspective and good words. We would love it if Aidan took at least a year off after high school, and, as you know, our kids make their own decisions, as they should.

    We did heed your words about the tour guides and will say there seems to be a pretty high correlation between the guide and Aidan’s thoughts about the place.

    Enjoy Boston. Manny in a White Sox uni? At this point, why not?

    Regards to your crew, and let’s get together soon.


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