Book reveals inner workings of Ivy League
Authors give Penn high marks for nightlife, atmosphere, campus housing lags behind
November 14, 2005
by Ross Avila
High school seniors applying to Penn’s Class of 2010 have a new tool to give them candid, inside information about all of the Ivy League schools — a book written largely by students at each of the eight universities.
Published in late September, Untangling the Ivy League is the first book on college admissions dedicated solely to the eight Ivy League institutions: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Penn and Yale.
At over 550 pages, the Ivy League manual contains information as varied and thorough as “closest grocery store,” “cheapest place to get a drink,” “best places to hook up” and “where to get birth control.”
A section devoted specifically to Penn features quotes from students as well as a slang glossary that define such terms like “baby Quad,” “Fro-Gro” and “Whartonite.”
The book also grades each school on different aspects of campus life, such as academics, dining and Greek life. Penn earned its lowest ratings for campus housing, campus dining and parking and high ratings for its lenient atmosphere, wealth of off-campus housing and nightlife.
Author Marc Zawel, who began research for the book while he was a senior at Cornell, said that he wrote it in part because no book had ever been written exclusively about the Ivy League.
He attributes the public’s fascination and high school students’ obsession with the Ivy League to the fact that a college degree is not worth what it used to be.
“Degrees don’t mean as much, so students try to get those degrees from the best possible school,” Zawel said. “Prospective students have the notion that going to an Ivy League school is a key ingredient to success later in life, and that’s not the case at all.”
Zawel said that the research for the book took two years and that it was largely done by individual students at each university, the eight of whom are called “college insiders.”
Zawel says that these insiders are the reason the information presented in the book is so comprehensive.
“I’ve been to Penn, but I don’t know as much about it as students,” Zawel said, adding that he interviewed Ivy League admissions officers who spoke to him anonymously.
Chris Mason, director of product development for College Prowler, which published the book, said that student quotes were picked to reflect the overall atmosphere on campus.
“We’re not trying to censor in any way,” Mason said. “We try to get rid of the outliers, anyone with an agenda.”
In the book section entitled “Diversity,” the book says that Penn’s campus is evenly split between liberals and conservatives, a point with which College senior Bree Berman disagrees.
“I actually think that there are far more liberals than conservatives on campus,” Berman said. “I would be much more comfortable giving a liberal viewpoint to my peers here than I would giving out a conservative viewpoint.”
Berman also questioned the book’s assertion that Penn’s men are better-looking than its women.
“I think it’s about even,” Berman said. “I guess the reason someone might come to think that is because girls at Penn are so made-up.”
Berman did agree, however, with the book’s statement that for the most part, Penn students are very happy to be at Penn.
“I’m really happy to be at Penn, and I find a lot of my friends are, too,” Berman said.” Some people complain about this professor or that, but what school doesn’t have that?”