The Overachievers By Alexandra Robbins. I was sick of college talk. Sick of reciting the names of the schools my 16-year-old has visited, which ones she liked best, and why. Sick of listening to other parents do the same. Sick of discussing the finer points of the new SAT, class rank and recommendation letters. Sick of the chatter about Opal Mehta, the fictitious Harvard applicant and heroine of a recent plagiarized novel. So sick of it all that I was considering a ban on extrafamilial college talk from now until spring, when my daughter will finally belong to someone’s class of 2011.
Then I read “The Overachievers,” which is almost nothing but college talk. Alexandra Robbins profiles eight students at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., in-depth over three semesters in 2004 and 2005; they talk about college. She pans wide to include overachievers across the country; they talk about college. She consults experts on college. She surveys the literature about college. She calls for new ways of thinking about college, preparing for college, and applying to college. I couldn’t get enough of it.