The Gatekeepers

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In the fall of 1999, New York Times education reporter Jacques Steinberg was given an unprecedented opportunity to observe the admissions process at prestigious Wesleyan University. Over the course of nearly a year, Steinberg accompanied admissions officer Ralph Figueroa on a tour to assess and recruit the most promising students in the country. The Gatekeepers follows a diverse group of prospective students as they compete for places in the nation's most elite colleges. The first book to reveal the college admission process in such behind-the-scenes detail, The Gatekeepers will be required reading for every parent of a high school-age child and for every student facing the arduous and anxious task of applying to college.
Curriculet Details
63 Questions
60 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in eleventh and twelfth grades, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining theme, character development, and textual evidence. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about irony, foreshadowing, and metaphor and simile. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of theme, analysis of seminal US documents in context of this writing, and point of view. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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Iran-Contra refers to President Reagan's secret dealings with Iran where he sent arms to Iran in exchange for the return of American hostages. This was highly controversial as it broke several American laws and was viewed as Reagan being dishonest. 
Why does Steinberg add these highlighted statements to his introduction? 
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up? 
Why does Steinberg compare the NACAC to Disney World? 
Below is the Time magazine cover illustrating the Bakke decision. Why do you think this was important to admissions guidelines? (This annotation contains an image)
How is this quote a true or untrue statement today? 
Why does Steinberg decide to turn down Bates' offer? 

ONE The Tortilla Test

Given what Steinberg stated about Wesleyn's physical layout, what is ironic about calling Figueroa a gatekeeper? (This annotation contains a video)
Is Ralph being a salesman or giving an honest interview to the prospective applicants? 
Why does Steinberg use the term "cruel practicalities" in this highlighted passage? 
What else does Steinberg say goes into the admissions process other than a candidate's application? 
Why does this seem preordained? 
How has Ralph's history and his parents' choices affected his career choices? 
How does Sharon's ability to find someone for Ralph foreshadowing of her future job? 
What other motivation did Ralph have in choosing this career as admissions officer? 
How does the title of this chapter relate to the process of admissions to college? 
Below is a picture of Wesleyan College. (This annotation contains an image)
What is one of the motivating factors for Barbara-Jan to hire Ralph? 

TWO Don’t Send Me Poems

What is the inferred statement made in the highlighted passage concerning race? 
Why does Ralph distrust private counselors? 
How did the civil rights movement affect the way colleges recruit students? 
Gabriel García Márquez is a Colombian-born author and journalist, winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature and a pioneer of the Latin American “Boom.” Affectionately known as “Gabo” to millions of readers, he first won international fame with his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude.  (This annotation contains an image)
In this chapter, Steinberg repeatedly states that Juliana is undecided where college is concerned, but in this highlighted passage, Juliana makes some statements that show the opposite truth. What type of college is she looking for? 
Why would Becca want to write a college essay about this incident? 
Why do you think some view Becca as a hero and others view her as a villain? What do you think of her actions? 
Why do Becca's peers vote her as chair of the honor board? 
Why is it better that Mr. Sal write about the pot brownie instance instead of Becca? 
How does Becca reveal the maturity that Mr. Sal repeatedly speaks about in this highlighted passage? 
How does Ralph's essay writing presentation persuade Becca? 
What is Ralph's motivation in going to the Native American Prep School? 
What qualities do Mig and the adults around him see that he is not using to succeed? 
Do you think it's fair to promote a program knowing that some of the applicants desperately need support that the school may not be able to offer? 

THREE Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Why is Steinberg describing Ralph's office as a teenager's room? 
How could Ralph's law books help him when presenting to prospective students? Below is a link to a case study of Bakke. Think about affirmative action, Ralph's role, and this case study. (This annotation contains a link)
Below is a clip of the admissions process at Amherst. Compare this video to the highlighted statement and previous chapters. How does this clip compare to the visual Steinberg is painting? (This annotation contains a video)
Why would the admissions officer's backgrounds make them good judges of a student's potential success? 
Why does Rod want them to keep high school's complaints in mind when reviewing applicants? 
In the highlighted passage, Ralph finds the thought "hauntingly indelible." In this context, what does that statement mean? 
What is motivating Barbara-Jan in her new position? 
What was one reason that Wesleyan was struggling financially? 
Why is the comfort and atmosphere of the admissions office important?  (This annotation contains an image)
Which literary device is used to illustrate Jordan's feelings and beliefs at this moment? 
How is Jordan leveraging his friendships with famous writers? 
What is one of Jordan's motivations for going to a "name" college? 
Introduction-Chapter 3 Quiz 

FOUR Considered Without Prejudice

In the highlighted passage, how does the simile express the tone of the meeting in this moment? 
Why would gender be something for the admissions officers to pay attention to? 
Steinberg's perspective is that Greg didn't want the position of dean of admissions. How can we infer this? 
How is the rubric subjective? 
Why do the admissions officers make names up for the applicants? 
Why does Steinberg emphasize the human element? 
Simon and Garfunkel were a singing duo made up of singer-songwriter and guitar player Paul Simon and singer Art Garfunkel. The duo formed in 1957 and were extremely popular until their break-up in 1970. (This annotation contains an image)
Who will be receiving preferential consideration in the normal round? 
Why was the deferral so heartbreaking for Jordan? 
What is motivating Jordan's actions? 
What is Becca trying to say about the future and her role in it? 
Why won't Julianna rank her college choices? 
What does the word quixotic mean in the context of the highlighted passage? 

FIVE Read Faster, Say No

Steinberg is using a metaphor in the highlighted passage. How does the metaphor relate to Ralph's job? (This annotation contains a video)
What motivates Natalie to keep her patience when Ralph is vetting his candidates? 
Although foreshadowing is more commonly used in works of fiction, Steinberg uses it in this highlighted passage. Why does he choose to use foreshadowing? (This annotation contains a video)
Is Ralph being more or less critical of Tiffany than he seems to be towards Mig? 
Why does Tiffany not apply herself to her schoolwork? 
What is ironic about Tiffany's choice to exclude her passion for opposing the death penalty? 
Below is a picture of Oldfields. Notice it's isolation. (This annotation contains an image)
Would you be able to make friends with people who have beliefs that affect you as a person? 
What does Aggie learn about education? 
Why does Ralph change the score from a 3 to a 4 for Aggie? 
Why does Ralph believe Aggie deserves consideration? 
How is Ralph trying to justify his rejections? 

SIX Thundercats and X-Men

Below is a case study of Hopwood v. Texas. How might this affect admissions at Wesleyan and other colleges? (This annotation contains a link)
When Greg is reviewing candidates, what is one of his guiding factors? 
How is Greg trying to make sure he remains impartial in his decision with Aggie? 
Personally, Rod feels that Wesleyan holds Asian Americans to a higher standard, but does he hold Tiffany to a higher standard? 
Read the highlighted passage. How is this an example of situational irony? (This annotation contains a video)
How has Jordan made the connection he was hoping for without his portfolio? 
Why is Jordan's essay so impactful on Ralph? 
Below is the picture of Richard Price, the famous author and screenwriter that Jordan put his faith in as the key to admission. (This annotation contains an image)
What is a downside to being good friends for Sharon and Ralph? 
The metaphor of Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts landing on his desk in comparison to Julianna explains to us that she is a star. What else does it express about her application to Wesleyan? 
Maya Angelou was an activist, single mother, poet, author,and community leader. Julianna references one of her seminal works. (This annotation contains an image)
Is this Maya Angelou quote appropriate in the given situation? How do you believe it relates to Julianna?  

SEVEN Nothing to Do with the Dope

Which literary device is being used to describe the pressure being felt by the admissions officers in the highlighted passages? 
How is Ralph preparing his argument while listening to Greg's information? 
Once again, Steinberg is humanizing the admissions officers. What is the purpose? 
Do you think Ralph fought hard enough for Becca? 
Where does Mig get his love for film? 
Why is Mig admitted despite his academic record? 
What argument does Sharon use to fight for Becca? 
How is Ralph playing politics to change Becca's fate at Wesleyan? 
What is the waiting list being compared to? 
Chapters 4-7 

EIGHT Things Seem to Have Gone Well

Why use this dramatic beginning? 
How do the envelopes play a part in making the candidate feel special? 
The admissions process is basically over. Why is Ralph still focused on admissions? 
How could this failure of Ralph's and Wesleyan jeopardize their chances with Julianna?  
What does the club meeting explain about Wesleyan to Julianna? 
What would Ralph say or do if Julia had told him about the meeting she attended the night before and the student reactions the day after? 
How is Jordan's experience at Wesleyan different from Julianna's? 
Why is Ralph so excited about Mig's acceptance? 

NINE 420-ed

Having gone through both her initial vetting and the admissions process, why do you think Tiffany is surprised about Wesleyan wait listing her? 
Is it common for people wait listed to feel a sense of failure and look elsewhere? 
What trait does this new information about Aggie show us? 
Below is a picture of Muhlenberg College. (This annotation contains an image)
Should Becca have chosen another focus for her essays? 
Why does Becca focus her emotion on Ralph? 
Is Becca correct that the admissions officers were hypocritical? 

TEN Unnamed Gorgeous Small Liberal Arts School

Is the Listserv a good idea for Jordan to gain information and connect with people? 
Why can Jordan only accept Brown's rejection after he has rejected Brown? 
For all of the thought and work Jordan put into trying to get into his father's and uncle's dream schools, they seem to fully support and encourage his choice of Wesleyan. 
Below is the fountain that grabbed Julianna's attention. (This annotation contains an image)
Do you believe that Catherine helping Julianna or hurting her by pushing the financial aid office? 
How did Stanford's ploy to use Chelsea to get Julianna backfire? 
What helped Julia choose Yale over Wesleyan? 
Is it a smart move to pay the deposit as a back-up? 
This is the second time that Ralph has gone to extreme behavior to get Becca in. Should he be so cunning and manipulative? 
Knowing Becca's fate, was it worth everything Ralph did to try and get her admitted to Wesleyan? 


What are the prospective students searching for in applying to the colleges? 
Why does Wesleyan reaching elite status drop their enrollment? 
What is Rod's largest frustration with Wesleyan? 
How have times changed in regards to SAT scores and early admissions? 
How do Mig's new friends and their diverse backgrounds help Mig? 
Why does Aggie struggle at Muhlenberg? 
How has Tiffany changed since we first met her? 
How does Becca see herself versus what an outsider would see? 
Chapters 8- Epilogue