Aiming for the Ivies: A Review of Fat Envelope Frenzy by Joie Jager-Hyman

Posted on: October 19, 2009
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Reviewed by Rocky Reichman


Over 3.3 million applicants.

That’s how many students applied to colleges this year, the largest in U.S. (and probably the world’s) history. Face it, aspiring Ivy Leaguers: It’s tough to get in to your first choice schools. And it’s not going to get easier anytime soon. Why the surge in applications? Two reasons. The first is obvious: our nation is experiencing a large population boom, which means that there are more students applying for the same finite number of spots at colleges this year. Second, there has been an increase in the number of kids applying to higher-ranking colleges, a large percentage of them aiming for the Ivies.

What’s an overachiever to do?

“Try harder” isn’t the only answer. Quite frankly, that probably isn’t possible for some people. They are already trying their hardest—or harder. Excellent high school GPAs (grade point averages) and stellar SAT scores can no longer guarantee applicants admission to their first-choice colleges. You need both. And an incredibly outstanding resume. And extracurriculars. Oh, and don’t forget A.P.s or SAT IIs if you are aiming for the Ivies. And you better prepare for uncontrollable factors too: if your ethnicity is overrepresented in a certain area of application pool, then your chances of succeeding are even smaller. Any of this sound crazy? Think it’s a bit over the top?

What must it be like to live the life of the overachieving high school student who spends years studying, studying and oh, studying some more? Try imagining how important getting into their favorite colleges must be—and what kids go through during the wait period, agonizing over whether they get accepted to their schools or not.

Well, fortunately you don’t have to. In Fat Envelope Frenzy, Author Joie Jager-Hyman has done it for you. Fat Envelope Frenzy profiles five overachievers who aspire to win the golden prize: A “fat envelope” telling them they got accepted into an Ivy League college. And without ever tiring, the author delivers fascinating accounts into the lives of these overachievers. Jager-Hyman also does a spectacular job at connecting the reader to the five students: she includes anecdotes that really humanize the book and let readers relate to the real-life characters. Her writing brings readers into the lives of these stellar students, and at its best points reads like quality fiction.

Fat Envelope Frenzy is written in a conversational tone with language that is both refreshing and engaging. And the book is easy to read, too. No technical terms or academic writing style color the text. Just plain simple English. In the back of the book, the author even includes a guide to reading “How To book” on the subject of “college admissions.”

A subject like this has a broad audience. Not only is it recommended for aspiring Ivy Leaguers and their parents but for all students. Even those not interested in applying to top colleges will learn a great deal from this book. And not just about the college admissions process. About life, too. About the sacrifices and incredible achievements students strive for everyday to reach their life and career goals. Jager-Hyman sprinkles her chapters with magic powder. The result? She helps inform high school students about what they face—now and in the future.

The author should be proud: she has informed high school students of the incredible odds facing them when they apply to Ivy League colleges and of the special care they need to take to increase their chances of acceptance. But at the same time, she manages to do it in an objective, helpful light that will leave students feeling positive and hopeful about their academic futures.


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