Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions

College Admissions Reading List

Recommended by Faculty and Staff of the Summer Institute

Our faculty has put together a list of books, not necessarily related to admissions, which they have found to be interesting, provocative, helpful or wonderful for different reasons. You may wish to read some of these books during the coming months. Our faculty will welcome your reactions and/or suggestions when we all meet at the Institute. The individual recommender’s name appears in parentheses after each suggestion.

Aging Well, by George Vaillant. (Rod Skinner). Purchase link.

American Demographics, published by Advertising Age magazine. Required monthly reading. (William Fitzsimmons). Online publication.

A Mind at a Time, by Mel Levine. (Rod Skinner). Purchase link.

The Anatomy of Racial Inequality, by Glenn Loury. (Dean Whitla). Purchase link.

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. Powerfully addresses issues of gender and socioeconomic class. (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Still highly relevant. (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home, by George Howe Colt. An inside view of some of New England’s (and Harvard’s) historical founding families. (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

Binge: Campus Life in an Age of Disconnection and Excess, by Barrett Seaman discusses life outside of the classroom and “what your college student won’t tell you.” (Gloria Mueller). Purchase link.

The Black-White Test Score Gap, edited by Christopher Jencks and Meredith Philips. (Dean Whitla). Purchase link.

The Blessings of a B Minus, by Wendy Mogel (Gloria Mueller). Purchase link.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell. (Joe Bellavance). Purchase link.

Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, by David Brooks. Examines the role of education in shaping the new meritocracy. (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

The Case for Affirmative Action, by Jesse Jackson and Bob Laird. (Richard Shaw). Purchase link.

The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, by Edward Hallowell. (Rod Skinner). Purchase link.

The Children of the Kibbutz, by Melford Spiro. Insights into human development and adolescence. (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

Choosing Students: Higher Education Admissions Tools for the 21st Century, by Wayne J. Camara and Ernest W. Kimmel (Editors). Vital research on college admission today and tomorrow. (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, by Jerome Karabel. (William Fitzsimmons) Purchase link.

The Chronicle of Higher Education. Required weekly reading. (William Fitzsimmons) Chronicle website.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond. (Rod Skinner) Purchase link.

The College Administrator’s Survival Guide, by C. K. Gunsalus. Purchase link.

The College Application Essay, by Sarah Myers McGinty. (Gloria Mueller) Purchase link.

College of the Overwhelmed, by Dr. Richard Kadison, M.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo discusses the campus mental health crisis and what to do about it (Gloria Mueller). Purchase link.

Colleges That Change Lives, by Loren Pope. (Gloria Mueller). Purchase link.

Composing a Life, by Mary Catherine Bateson. A look at how discontinuity and change can be a source of great energy and creativity in our lives. (Rod Skinner). Purchase link.

Counselors and Mentors Handbook on Federal Student Aid: 2012-13, Download pdf. (Duane Quinn).

Crafting a Class: College Admissions and Financial Aid, Elizabeth A. Duffy and Idana Goldberg, Princeton University Press, 1998. This is historical research which puts a good perspective on the influence of financial aid on admissions and includes a good cross section of institutions and how they dealt with the impact of aid on enrollment. (Duane Quinn). Purchase link.

Crossing the Finish Line, by William Bowen, Matthew Chingos, and Michael McPherson. A comprehensive analysis of the problem of college students’ failure to complete their baccalaureate degrees. (Dean Whitla). Purchase link.

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter — And How to Make the Most of Them Now., by Meg Jay. (Rod Skinner).Purchase link.

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen, Roger Fisher. (Rod Skinner) Purchase link.

The Economist. Required weekly reading. (William Fitzsimmons) The Economist website.

The End of Equality, by Mickey Kaus. Purchase link.

Equity And Excellence In American Higher Education (Thomas Jefferson Foundation Distinguished Lecture Series), by William G. Bowen, Martin A. Kurzweil, Eugene M. Tobin, Susanne C. Pichler. (Rod Skinner). Purchase link.

Excellence: Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too?, by John Gardner. One of a handful of books I consider to be "mentoring texts" during my career. He reminds us that selecting for talent is one of the most difficult and critical tasks performed in this society. (Fred Hargadon). Purchase link.

The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values, written by former Princeton University president William Bowen and co-author James Shulman. This study covers not only the big time Division I schools but also delves into the growing impact of athletics in small liberal arts colleges. (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College, by Jacques Steinberg. (Carol Lunkenheimer). Purchase link.

The Hero’s Trail, by T. A. Barron. Purchase Link.

Higher Education and the Color Line: College Access, Racial Equity, and Social Change, by Gary Orfield (Editor), Patricia Marin (Editor), Catherine L. Horn (Editor). (Janet Rapelye). Purchase link.

A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League, by Ron Suskind. Purchase link.

Horace’s Hope: What Works for the American High School, by Theodore Sizer. This book, and The Schools We Need, by E.D. Hirsch are two contrasting and powerful volumes about American education. Hirsch strongly believes that the progressive movement has robbed our school of the knowledge that students need to be effective in the modern world; the evidence he provides is persuasive. Sizer has in his Horace trilogy brought us insights about the American school seldom voiced elsewhere or as effectively presented. He strongly believes that students need to see the inter-relatedness of the disciplines and suggests interdisciplinary learning for more authentic understanding. Both books are provocative and thoughtfully written. (Dean Whitla). Purchase link.

How Much Debt is Too Much Debt?, by Dr. Sandra Baum. (F. Duane Quinn). Download PDF from the College Board.

Imagine: How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer. (Rod Skinner). Purchase link.

“Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates by State and Race/Ethnicity 1992-2022”, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, March 2008. (William Fitzsimmons). Download link.

The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch. (Gloria Mueller). Purchase Link.

Learning to Fall: The Blessings of An Imperfect Life, by Philip Simpson. A series of essays that consider how to distinguish the essential from the circumstantial. (Rod Skinner). Purchase Link.

Lessons Learned: Reflections of a University President, by William Bowen. (Janet Rapelye). Purchase Link.

Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years, by Karen Coburn and Madge Lawrence Tregger. (Gloria Mueller). Purchase link.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, by Tom Friedman. The role of education in globalization. (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

Lives of Moral Leadership, by Robert Coles. Coles examines the ways in which acts of courage by leaders and, more profoundly, by ordinary citizens had a powerful impact on the civil rights movement of the 60s. It shows us the way we can be leaders to our worlds. (Rod Skinner). Purchase link.

Making Good: How Young People Cope with Moral Dilemmas at Work, by Howard Gardner and others. (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

Making the Most of College, by Richard Light. Students tell us how learning can be enhanced. We gain insight into how to help make the "fit" between applicants and colleges work. (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

Millenials Go To College, by Neil Howe and William Strauss. This is a quick read and follow-up to Millenials Rising. It gives interesting insight into what the traditional 18–22 year-old is thinking when choosing a college. (Duane Quinn). Purchase link.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis. How the "new" empiricism is re-shaping baseball (and the world?). (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

Old School, by Tobias Wolff. (Carol Lunkenheimer). Purchase link.

On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense, by David Brooks. More on the new America and American character. Purchase link.

The Paradox of Choice, by Barry Schwartz. (Carol Lunkenheimer). Purchase link.

Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine, by George Dohrmann. (Greg Roberts). Purchase link.

Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James. American character and sensibility. (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

Prep: A Novel, by Curtis Sittenfeld. (Carol Lunkenheimer). Purchase link.

The Price of Admission, by Daniel Golden. Purchase Link.

Questions and Admissions, Jean H. Fetter, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 1995. Jean, when she was Dean of Admissions at Stanford, was a member of the Summer Institute staff. Her book is a thoughtful reflection on her years in admissions at Stanford. She addresses tough questions on admissions with good humor and style. (Dean Whitla). Purchase link.

Race Matters, by Cornell West. This is a well-reasoned, easily read treatise; he handles well tough issues e.g. African Americans and sexuality. (Dean Whitla). Purchase link

“Race Sensitive Admissions: Back to Basics,” by William G. Bowen and Neil Rudenstine. The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 7, 2003. (Dean Whitla). Download pdf..

Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich, by Robert Frank. (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

Teacher, by Mark Edmundson. A University of Virginia professor looks at the way one brave, iconoclastic teacher changed him from a thug into an intellect. (Rod Skinner). Purchase link.

Season of Life: A Football Star, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood , by Jeffrey Marx. (Rod Skinner). Purchase link.

The Shape of the River: Long-term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions, Derek Bok and William Bowen. You’ve heard about the Bowen-Bok book, and you really should take time to read it. Their thesis, that we simply must continue race-conscious admissions policies because they create a number of strong and important black professionals and black leaders, is so well-argued and documented that it deserves your attention. They demonstrate that eliminating such admissions policies will reduce by half the number of blacks enrolled in selective colleges while making only the most modest increase, probably less than 2%, in the odds of whites being admitted to these schools. Giving up race-conscious admissions seems a high price to pay for a tiny increase in the probability of admission of white applicants to selective colleges. I know of no other example that so effectively documents this case. I personally found the reading slow but enormously rewarding. Please do take the time to read this piece and we will compare notes when you get to Cambridge. (Dean Whitla). Purchase link.

The Sport of Learning, by Vince Fudzie, Andre Hayes, and the Boyz. A comprehensive survival guide for African-American Student-Athletes (Ted Spencer). Purchase link.

The State of College Admission 2011, by Melissa Clinedinst and David Hawkins. National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). (William Fitzsimmons). Download pdf.

The Student Aid Game: Meeting Need and Rewarding Talent in American Higher Education, Michael S. McPherson and Morton Owen Schapiro. This is a little dry, but fully explores the fundamental principles of aid in higher education. You really have to want to get into this stuff if you get through this. (Duane Quinn). Purchase link.

The Guide to Federal Student Aid, 2012-2013, U.S. Department of Education; Student Financial Assistance Programs. This is one of the few government documents which is readable and understandable. It is the basic starting point for a novice interested in Financial Aid. (Duane Quinn). Download pdf.

The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. An entertaining and especially useful perspective on how things become “hot” or “popular”. (Joe Bellavance). Purchase link.

Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, by Annette Lareau. (Kedra Ishop). Purchase link.

View With a Grain of Sand, by Wislawa Szymborska. These wise, often funny poems restore one’s sense of humor and humanity. Szymborska is very readable; her poems can provide very effective tone moments for workshops, meetings with students, speeches, etc. (Rod Skinner). Purchase link.

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, by Thomas L. Friedman. (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness: What It Means To Be Black Now, by Touré. (Rod Skinner). Purchase link.

“Why a Diverse Student Body is so Important,” Neil Rudenstine. The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 19, 1996. Ted thinks this is a strong piece and recommends that you read it before attending the Institute. (Ted Spencer). Read online at DiversityWeb.

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, by Beverly Tatum. (Joe Bellavance). Purchase link.

Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past, by William Knowlton Zinsser. (Rod Skinner). Purchase link.

The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. (Rod Skinner). Purchase link.

You Majored in What?: Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career, by Katharine Brooks. (Rod Skinner). Purchase link.

Young Radicals: Notes on Committed Youth, by Kenneth Keniston. A realistic view of 1960s radicals that provides frameworks, including that of Erik Erikson, for understanding adolescence. (William Fitzsimmons). Purchase link.

Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers. (Greg Roberts). Purchase link.