While their peers were focusing weekend parties, Jordan Goldman ’04 and Colleen Buyers ’04 were writing a book. When they were just eighteen years old, the two friends decided to pen their own college guidebook, Students’ Guide to Colleges. Their hard work and intuition paid off: This summer, the book was released and has yielded impressive sales.
Since the book’s release, the pair has received attention from Time magazine, ABC News, and thirty radio programs, among others.
“Colleen and I used to talk about how we’d read all of these college guidebooks before coming to college and how, once we got here, we experienced stuff that was never included,” Goldman said. “The main problem was that these books were written by the Administration instead of the students, but the students are the ones who know what’s really going on at a college.”
Seeing the potential to crack a competitive market, Goldman and Buyers spent their sophomore year writing a book proposal for a college guide written by students. Their book, according to Goldman, is the first of its kind.
“The books answer questions that you won’t find in any other guide, like ‘What wouldn’t a prospective student see on a campus tour?’ and ‘What wouldn’t an admissions officer tell a prospective student?’” Goldman said.
Goldman and Buyers both decided to study abroad their junior year, Goldman at Oxford and Buyers in Ghana. Even while living on different continents, they continued working on their proposal and sent it in. They were soon signed by the literary agency Janklow and Nesbit Associates and later sold the book to Penguin Books, the second largest publisher in the world.
Then began the drama of collecting submissions. Goldman and Buyers hired 200 students to spread the word about their online survey and in a few months they had received over 30,000 student evaluations from across the country.
“It was an entirely grassroots effort over the Internet,” Goldman said. “We had to narrow it down to three student opinions per school. We tried to pick students who were radically different from one another so that there was no one singular view of any college.”
They spent their senior year sorting through these submissions while working on their 200-plus page senior theses. Postponing production of the book was never an option because they had signed a rock-solid contract.
“It helped me develop a strong work ethic,” Goldman said. “But creating the book was different from, say, writing a paper for a class at Wesleyan. You slave away on a 30-page paper, turn it in, get your grade, feel good about it – and then start working on the next one. We finished the book about seven months before it actually came out, so when we were really excited and wanted to talk about it, nobody cared. Only this past August did we start receiving a lot of attention.”
Former Senior Dean of Admissions at Harvard University Chuck Hughes even offered to write the preface to the book. Students Guide has been so well received that Goldman and Buyers have been signed to produce several more editions in upcoming years.
“The next editions will have new features and content,” Goldman said. “Penguin gives us a lot of control to change the shape of the book as we see fit.”
When asked what else he’s up to, Goldman said that he “can’t really talk about new projects,” but that there are some exciting things going on.
And does the book show any favoritism toward Wesleyan?
“We tried not to,” Goldman said. “We allowed comments to criticize the Administration, particularly for the ban on chalking. I think Wesleyan is represented fairly in Students Guide.”