Book Review: "Getting In" by Karen Stabiner

Q: What does a parent need to survive the college application process?

A. A sense of humor.
B. A therapist on 24-hour call.
C. A large bank balance.
D. All of the above.

Getting In is the roller-coaster story of five very different Los Angeles families united by a single obsession: acceptance at a top college, preferably one that makes their friends and neighbors green with envy. At an elite private school and a nearby public school, families devote themselves to getting their seniors into the perfect school-even if the odds are stacked against them, even if they can't afford the $50,000 annual price tag, even if the effort requires a level of deceit, and even if the object of all this attention wants to go somewhere else.

Getting In is a delightfully smart comedy of class and entitlement, of love and ambition, set in a world where a fat envelope from a top school matters more than anything . . . almost.

Reading this book totally made me glad that I am done with the entire college process. I would not want to relive this time period again regardless of what I've said before in the past. The pressure to live up to your application. The agony of waiting for a response. The thrill of acceptance. The pain of denial. I want to leave that overemotional roller coaster days behind me. This book read like a total behind the scenes look at what it takes to get your kids into the best college.

What I found most interesting is that for almost all of the students, it was the parent who wanted the top college for their child more than the actual child did. It was nothing more than a status symbol to them, to brag to other parents and show off. That actually made me quite sad to read this because I know that it's all too true in real life. Throughout the book, the parents were trying to do monitor all of their children's lives to ensure that they would get to the top. From getting the best SAT scores to not being able to date, the teens in this book had their lives completely controlled by their parents for the path to success. Obsession is the key word here.

I enjoyed reading both the parents and the teens points of views. In contrast to the frantic and hectic lifestyle of the parents, the teens were more down to earth and slower paced. Even if they had their eyes set on a certain college, they knew that all they could do was give their best, wait and not try to force the system. I found it sad that they never really got to enjoy their final years of high school. Life in college will probably be difficult for them since they won't have their parents breathing down their backs anymore, telling them what they need to do.

The only thing that I didn't like about the book was that I felt that there were too many characters. Not only are there five students to keep track of, but you also had to remember all their parents plus Ted as well. I got really confused trying to figure out which girl was which and which teen belonged to which parent. This was especially difficult after putting the book down for the night and then waking up the next day and trying to figure out who was who again. The ending seems a bit ambiguous as well. I felt that some characters got more time than others and some fates didn't seem as clear as others. Which then made me wonder why they were brought into the story in the first place.

Other than this, I really enjoyed reading this book. The fascination with getting into a good college is something that will probably be a mainstay of American life forever. Somehow our culture seems to associate prestige and social standing with the name of the college that you go to. Stabiner has perfectly captured that essence in this book.

Getting In by Karen Stabiner is published by Hyperion Voice (2010)

This review copy was provided by

For another look at the college application process, I recommend Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz


  1. When Vance was in middle school a friend of his informed me that he was doing something because it would look good on his college application. I remember thinking it was way too early to worry about that, but people do. I do think some parents want their kids to go to the top colleges because they think it will give their kids an advantage in life.

  2. I thought so. Just reading the title says it all. This book would be perfect for mothers out there.


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