The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us

The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us Details

“Indelible and extraordinary.”—Tara Westover, author of Educated: A Memoir, New York Times Book Review
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

The best-selling author of How Children Succeed returns with a powerful, mind-changing inquiry into higher education in the United States

Does college still work? Is the system designed just to protect the privileged and leave everyone else behind? Or can a college education today provide real opportunity to young Americans seeking to improve their station in life?

The Years That Matter Most tells the stories of students trying to find their way, with hope, joy, and frustration, through the application process and into college. Drawing on new research, the book reveals how the landscape of higher education has shifted in recent decades and exposes the hidden truths of how the system works and whom it works for. And it introduces us to the people who really make higher education go: admissions directors trying to balance the class and balance the budget, College Board officials scrambling to defend the SAT in the face of mounting evidence that it favors the wealthy, researchers working to unlock the mysteries of the college-student brain, and educators trying to transform potential dropouts into successful graduates.

With insight, humor, and passion, Paul Tough takes readers on a journey from Ivy League seminar rooms to community college welding shops, from giant public flagship universities to tiny experimental storefront colleges. Whether you are facing your own decision about college or simply care about the American promise of social mobility, The Years That Matter Most will change the way you think—not just about higher education, but about the nation itself.


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    The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us Reviews

  • Suzanne

    First up, this isn’t a guide on how to get into college. Nor is it reassurance that it doesn’t matter which college you get into. Instead, it’s an examination of the college playing field, and n...

  • Ryan

    In The Years That Matter Most, Paul Tough asks whether Americans should go to university.Does meritorious social mobility exist in America or has it been corrupted by inherited wealth? Under the old s...

  • Marks54

    Paul Tough’s new book is an addition to the literature of how the elite college applications process in the US, while always tied to replicating status and class, has recently grown even more so to ...

  • Haley Hope Gillilan

    absolutely outstanding. breaks down some important information about our higher education system and features some truly incredible anecdotes. I teared up towards the end. My higher ed friends MUST re...

  • Steve Peifer

    I have worked in this field for 20 years and not only does Tough get it, he sees far beyond most of us who can’t see beyond our trenches. He is a evocative writer who will make you desperately care ...

  • Mehrsa

    Of all the college and meritocracy books, this is the best and the most interesting. Tough cuts through the data and the hype and offers a timely analysis of inequality and meritocracy as it relates t...

  • Jen

    This is a great read. Albeit I am already interested in the price and importance of college, I found the data concerning Ivy League vs state schools, ACT/SAT test prep, first generation and minority s...

  • Rick

    Saw this book on Bill Gates' list of books he was interested in reading. I have one son in college, another in his senior year of high school, and a freshman in high school. As a college senior many y...

  • CarolynKost

    This book is really more a collection of essays, some more effective than others. It would have benefited from a closer editing of the anecdotes and straw man arguments. Tough's previous work, How Chi...

  • Kate Penner

    A really galvanizing, well written work on the landscape of higher ed and its inaccessibility for millions of Americans. It’s a particularly great survey work if you are interested in a brief histor...