In Acceptance, author Susan Coll immerses readers in the world of college admissions. Harry, nicknamed "AP Harry" because of his advanced course load, and his mother visit the fictitious Yates College, which has soared in popularity thanks to a mistake in U.S. News and World Report that ranked it among the top colleges in the nation. Also among Yates's prospective students are Taylor Rockefeller and Maya Kaluantharana, classmates of Harry's who are virtually devoid of any real academic aspirations.
Acceptance stands out amid a flurry of recently published novels that have taken on the topic of private schools and college acceptance. Harry, Maya, Taylor, and the other students at Verona High, a fictional prep school outside of Washington, D.C., are willing to claw and fight their way to the top colleges and universities. Their parents, too, will stop at nothing to have their children gain admission to the college of their choice. For example, Maya's mother would like to see her daughter's SAT scores improve, so she tries to have Maya diagnosed with a learning disability; doing so will allow Maya to have modifications on the next SAT, such as more time to complete the exam. Not to be outdone, Lily Wong chooses to move to an inner-city school based on the recommendation of a college counselor who suggested that Lily needed something on her application to make admissions officers take notice. The other side of the college admissions coin finds readers face to face with Olivia Sheraton, an admissions officer at Yates. As such, she learns about the extent to which some applicants are willing to go. She has even received flowers from those hoping to improve their chances.
Acceptance and other novels of the same ilk ultimately question whether all the effort is really worth it and in what ways it will pay off over the long run. In the case of Acceptance, is Harry better off with a heavily financed degree from Harvard that will come with more than a decade of debt or a scholarship to a state school that will leave him financially free to pursue other opportunities after graduation? Whatever the answer, readers will find themselves wonderfully engaged as the novel progresses, guessing whether each character will receive a thick or a thin envelope.