The college admissions process is the bane of many high school students, myself included. Every year, untold numbers take standardized tests, write personal statements, attend interviews, and much more. This year alone, more than 37,000 hopefuls applied to Harvard alone, and only 5.5% were admitted! It’s a scary thought, and Hacking Harvard by Robin Wasserman takes a peek behind that daunting process.
It’s the ultimate challenge: hacking into the Ivy League. The challenge is to get one deadbeat, unqualified slacker into Harvard itself. Who? Eric Roth, the one with the conscience; Max Kim, the one who made this mess to begin with; Schwartz, the one already infiltrating Harvard; and Lexi, the nosy valedictorian who is more than she seems. They all use undetectable methods and technology, without breaking the Hacker’s Code and getting caught, to win their prizes, with their stakes higher than they think.
Woah. That was a mouthful. To begin with, I think I should clarify that rating. I loved the plot for the most part, and was absolutely intrigued by the premise. The whole book deals with the pressure put on prospective college students as well as how arbitrary and relatively unfair the admissions process is. This resonated deeply with me, and I really agreed with a lot of points brought up. The plot was pretty interesting and fairly well-paced. I enjoyed the actual aspects of the hack, most of them hilarious, although I didn’t really like the side action, like the family drama and romance. I felt like it detracted from the main plot, and didn’t really have any time to be fleshed out, so it just felt rushed and extraneous. This is a minor complaint, but I also wished Lexi’s ending was different. Speaking of Lexi, she was actually the only character that I truly liked. Schwartz annoyed me because I felt like he just let everyone step all over him. For some reason, I also could never distinguish between Eric and Max, and almost always confused the two.
One of the scariest things about this book is that most of the events are actually plausible if you think about it. The admissions system is one that can sometimes be rigged unfairly, and as someone hoping to be accepted in highly selective schools, this makes me nervous, and to be honest a little bit angry. Hacking Harvard sheds a little bit of light on this issue, and while the story aspects of the novel may have been lacking, the book as a discussion piece is very important and eye-opening.