Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

A Princeton admissions officer's life is turned upside down when a potential student's application raises questions about her own past.


"Admission" by Jean Hanff Korelitz is a compelling novel that delves into the world of college admissions, exploring the intricacies of the selection process and the personal lives of the individuals involved. With a captivating narrative and well-developed characters, the book offers insights into the competitive nature of academia and the ethical dilemmas faced by admissions officers. Korelitz masterfully weaves together the themes of ambition, privilege, and the quest for authenticity, making "Admission" a thought-provoking and engaging read.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

"Admission" is set in the fictional Princeton University and follows the life of Portia Nathan, an admissions officer at the prestigious institution. Portia is dedicated to her work, meticulously evaluating countless applications and striving to select the most deserving candidates. However, her world is turned upside down when she encounters a bright young man named Jeremiah, whose unconventional background and exceptional intellect challenge her notions of merit and privilege. As Portia navigates the complexities of her professional and personal life, she is forced to confront her own biases and aspirations.


The story primarily unfolds in the esteemed academic environment of Princeton University, offering an inside look into the inner workings of college admissions. The campus serves as a backdrop for the intense competition, academic rigor, and societal expectations that shape the characters' experiences.

Main Events

1-3Portia diligently evaluates college applications, striving to uphold the standards of Princeton's admissions process.
4-6Portia encounters Jeremiah, a talented student from an unconventional background, and becomes intrigued by his potential.
7-9Portia grapples with personal and professional challenges, including her strained relationship with her colleague, Mark, and her mother's unexpected revelations.
10-12The dynamics of Jeremiah's application and his connection to a figure from Portia's past lead to profound self-reflection and ethical dilemmas for Portia.
13-15Portia makes crucial decisions that have far-reaching consequences for herself and those around her, ultimately reshaping her perspectives on privilege and authenticity.

Main Characters

Portia Nathan

Portia is an admissions officer at Princeton University, dedicated to upholding the institution's rigorous standards. As she navigates the complexities of her personal and professional life, she is compelled to reexamine her beliefs and values.

Jeremiah Balakian

Jeremiah is a brilliant and unconventional student whose remarkable intellect and non-traditional background challenge Portia's preconceptions. His application becomes a catalyst for Portia's introspection and moral dilemmas.


Mark is Portia's colleague at Princeton, and their strained relationship adds a layer of tension to the narrative. His contrasting viewpoints and personal history influence Portia's decisions and actions.

Themes and Insights

Ambition and Privilege

The novel delves into the themes of ambition and privilege, shedding light on the disparities and opportunities inherent in the college admissions process. Through the characters' experiences, Korelitz prompts readers to contemplate the impact of societal advantages and the pursuit of success.

Authenticity and Integrity

"Admission" also explores the concepts of authenticity and integrity, particularly in the context of academic achievement and personal identity. The characters' struggles with authenticity and ethical choices offer thought-provoking insights into the complexities of human nature.

Reader's Takeaway

"Admission" offers readers a captivating exploration of the intricate world of college admissions, interwoven with compelling personal narratives and moral quandaries. Through its well-crafted characters and thought-provoking themes, the novel provides an immersive and illuminating reading experience that invites reflection on privilege, integrity, and the pursuit of excellence.


In "Admission," Jean Hanff Korelitz skillfully navigates the complexities of college admissions and personal growth, offering a compelling narrative that resonates with readers. With its rich character development and thought-provoking themes, the novel leaves a lasting impression, provoking introspection and fostering a deeper understanding of the intricacies of privilege, authenticity, and ambition in the academic realm.

Admission FAQ

  1. What is Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz about?

    Admission is a novel that follows the story of a Princeton University admissions officer, Portia Nathan, as she navigates the complexities of her personal and professional life. The novel delves into themes of ambition, privilege, and the college admissions process.

  2. Is Admission based on a true story?

    No, Admission is a work of fiction and is not based on a true story. However, the author, Jean Hanff Korelitz, drew on her experiences as a reader for Princeton University to bring authenticity to the novel.

  3. What are some major themes in Admission?

    Some major themes in Admission include the pressure of academic achievement, ethical dilemmas in the college admissions process, the pursuit of success, and the complexities of personal relationships.

  4. Who would enjoy reading Admission?

    Readers who are interested in novels that explore the dynamics of college admissions, as well as those who appreciate character-driven stories with complex relationships and moral dilemmas, would likely enjoy reading Admission.

  5. Is Admission a suitable book for young adult readers?

    Admission contains themes and content that may be more suitable for adult readers due to its focus on adult characters navigating career challenges and personal relationships.