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...

  • Sleepless Dreamer

    There were about two weeks where I seriously considered studying in the United States. However, after filling up one page of the nightmare that is the Common App, I asked myself if I would actually go...

  • 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 ...

  • 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...

  • Chuck

    I'm not exactly sure where to start with this book. I suppose the best thing I can say about it is this: in ten years when I look back on the second stage of my career, I imagine I will look back at t...

  • 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 ...

  • Carl

    College is supposed to be the path to social mobility in the United States, but that doesn't seem to be true any more. There are exceptions, but on average rich students go to elite schools and stay r...

  • Carolyn Kost

    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...

  • 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...