The Berkeley Book of College Essays To Go Out of Publication
The Berkeley Book of College Essays, a compilation of Berkeley High School graduates’ most successful essays, will be taken out of print this year after a short circulation that began in 2006. The publishing company, Stone Bridge Press, is not renewing the book’s contract, and therefore it is left without a printing company to annually produce additional copies for distribution.
Combined with an absence of volunteers working to find a new publisher, the book has fallen by the wayside of Berkeley High’s attention. Though the College Career Center (CCC) still owns many copies and will keep giving sample essay Xeroxes to each graduating class, College Counselor Angela Price has identified a pressing issue. “Each year students’ lives are different than the last, and the book won’t be able to stay current,” she observed, “As times change, we won’t have that fresh response, because the book will have been published years before.” The old volume will still be around, but it may be obsolete, of less help simply because it is not time–relevant.
Janet Huseby, BHS Volunteer Coordinator, came up with the idea for assembling a college essay book while she was working in the CCC proofreading BHS students’ essay applications. “Many other books of this kind critique essays and pull them apart,” said Huseby, “but our book showcases a portfolio of effective writing that has stuck out from all the rest.”
Huseby assembled an adept lineup to work on the book: she herself gathered the essays (with consent from the BHS student writers), local writer Vicky Elliot edited the work, and BHS’ former college advisor Ilene Abrams composed the book’s foreword. Funded by a grant from the Berkeley High School Development Group (BHSDG), the book, then titled as True Admissions, was distributed to local bookstores throughout Berkeley, where it was eagerly received by the community. “It instantly became a bestseller at Cody’s Books [now out of business],” recalled Huseby.
True Admissions reached such high acclaim that Cody’s offered to print it professionally under it’s manager’s own publishing company, Stone Bridge Press, renamed under its present title, The Berkeley Book of College Essays. After Cody’s went out of business due to severe financial issues, venue closures, and changes in ownership, Stone Bridge Press no longer offered to keep printing the book. Huseby was left by herself, and unable to master the marketing. With no one else to help her in the time–consuming process of finding a new publisher, the book has reached the end of its printing days.
During the time it has been around, though, the book has been of great service to BHS students and the school itself. Through sales, The Berkeley Book of College Essays has netted a raw total of $13,485, all of which was donated to the CCC. At every one of BHS’ college information nights, Huseby could sell about one hundred copies to the enthusiastic parents of juniors and seniors.
Even to students who could not afford to buy their own copies, the CCC has ensured the book’s availability to all. “It’s an equity issue,” explained Price, “We have copies to borrow, and I often Xerox excerpts to hand out, so every kid can have access.”
The Berkeley Book of College Essays is particularly suitable for students applying to University of California (UC) schools. The majority of other essay books on the market emphasize private college apps, which vary in length, content and format from school to school. While many BHS students do apply to private colleges, almost all applicants put in for the UC schools, which have a distinct essay format.
“The UC app has the same prompt every year but there are so many different ways to write the essay,” said Price, “Our book helps rising juniors and seniors know what to focus on and makes it somewhat concrete.
To even a recreational reader, the book should be somewhat entertaining: “If it’s not interesting or engaging, then it’s not a good essay,” mused Huseby. The BHS student body is known for its diversity, so the college essays comprise a mosaic of experiences."
“We are very much an urban school, and our kids come from all areas,” stated Price, “It is a different school environment, but we can still compete with the independent schools throughout the East Bay.”
For now, The Berkeley Book of College Essays has seen its last days in print, unless a new team of dedicated volunteers can step up to the plate.