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In 1993, after applying early decision to Penn, Risa Lewak called the Office of Admissions once a week to check the status of her application.

Almost 20 years later, Lewak, a 1998 College graduate, is still caught up in the admissions process. She’s teaching applicants how to stay sane and learn from the mistakes she made.

Lewak got the idea for her new book — Don’t Stalk the Admissions Officer: How to Survive the College Admissions Process Without Losing Your Mind — when she was working as a pre-admissions counselor at Hunter College in New York. She was on a hunt for good reading to recommend to the kids and parents she met with, but all of the previous admissions books seemed “heavy, grim and very scary,” she said.

“It can be such a joyless process,” Lewak recalled of her own experience. When she realized that she spelled “innate” with only one “n” after turning in an essay, she remembered feeling like life was over. At college fairs where she represented Hunter, Lewak described the students and parents as “stressed, depressed and anxious.” She wanted to add levity to what people were feeling.

Two years ago, the Long Island, N.Y. mother of two quit her job and began a year and a half of interviews with students, parents, admissions consultants and guidance counselors from across the country. This resulted in a comprehensive and satirical guidebook for anyone thinking about applying to college.

Don’t Stalk the Admissions Officer is divided into three parts. The first encourages students to enjoy high school while they can.

“I think Risa laments how much energy was drowned during high school,” her sister Doree Lewak said.

The second part of the book dissects the “nitty gritty” of admissions, Lewak said. Topics include essays, interviews and standardized testing. Here, she writes about how stalking an admissions representative is never a good idea.

“One time a kid followed me to my car at midnight after a fair in Queens,” she remembered. “I thought that he was going to come home with me; it was … scary.”

The third and final portion of the book is an unusual component of a college admissions guide. It’s about dealing with rejection.

“A lot of students get complacent, get senioritis,” she explained. This section of the book is about “how to really overcome that and get excited about another college, or something alternative like going abroad for a while.”

Though Penn comes up throughout the book and a specific section is dedicated to “the HPY” — Harvard, Princeton and Yale universities — Don’t Stalk the Admissions Officer is not just for people applying to the Ivy League. “Getting into state schools is competitive these days,” Lewak said. “A lot of kids are vying for fewer and fewer seats.”

Now, Lewak spends her time promoting the book and spreading awareness, but she plans to continue writing.

She would love to write a follow-up with similar sardonic tone about life in college.

Since the book’s publication in July, it has received praise from sources like USA Today’s college blog and The Huffington Post. “While her experience and expertise on the subject allow her to offer helpful insight, it’s her sharp use of humor that shows that she really does understand how insane and nonsensical the whole process is,” the USA Today review said.

“There couldn’t be a more perfect person to write about this,” Doree Lewak said. “You have to had lived through the craziness to write about it in authority.”

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