"Acceptance" (A Legendary Guidance Counselor Helps Seven Kids Find the Right Colleges—And Find Themselves)" is the true story of Gwyeth "Smitty" Smith, a public school guidance counselor in a New York City suburb. He's an inspiring example of someone who lives for his job and makes his work all about the kids. What's particularly interesting is that he's often called "unorthodox" in his approach to counseling kids for college because he encourages students to be introspective, to think about who they are and what they really want out of their lives, and to find the right college matches, even if the schools aren't famous. I'm not sure that approach is all that unorthodox (or rare) for good counselors, but it's refreshing to find a college admissions book that focuses on something other than the bad news about selective colleges rejecting good kids.
Time magazine published a good interview with the author, but this part (not surprisingly) stuck out to me.
Do you believe that there is too much of an emphasis on getting into those Ivy or Ivy-like schools in this nation?
It's absurd that Americans have this idea that there's a small number of schools that are the "best places" for engineers or doctors or architects or teachers. The fact is, a lot of students change their major during college. The name on the gate is not the important thing. It's what the student puts into it and whether he or she finds challenging professors.
We've become a very brand-conscious society, and we have decided that in education — more than almost anything else — a big name tells us everything about quality. Guess what? At a lot of top research universities, professors are doing research, and often their focus is not on teaching. I'm a big skeptic about the allure of Ivy League schools. And I went to Brown as an undergrad, did a fellowship at Harvard, and taught writing at Dartmouth's business school. So I love those places, but I don't think you need to go to schools like that to be a success.