Quick: what percentage of Harvard students attended prep schools?
A lot is an understatement.
And next question: what do a bunch of Harvard prep school graduates do when they're gathered in a room together?
Reminisce, a lot.
Third and last question: what's the best thing to do with a bunch of Harvard prep school graduates reminiscences?
Write a book.
Which is exactly what Christopher J. Georges '86-'87 and James A. Messina '86 decided to do. The two college roommates compiled and edited "The Harvard Independent Insider's Guide to Prep Schools" which aspiring preppies can purchase in bookstores throughout the country.
Written in a light, entertaining style, the guide lists more than 200 prep schools and selective admission public high schools throughout the nation. Each entry includes a discussion of the school's academic quality, the atmosphere, tuition and financial aid, sports and social life. About 200 Harvard students wrote the entries for their high school alma mater.
"All these college books were out, but nothing like this for parents of grade school kids or the kids in preps themselves," Georges says.
Two years ago Georges and a friends conceived of the book as a way to raise money for the Crimson. They contacted over 70 publishers with a proposal for the book and a sample entry based on George's alma mater, Poly Prep in Brooklyn. Much to their amazement the response was quite positive. "They [the publishing companies] almost all responded," Georges says, "a lot of big ones--and that started a bidding war."
Eventually Georges and Plume Books, a division of the Penguin Publishing Company, decided on one another. "We liked the fact that it [the book] was going to be written by graduates of the schools," says Luann Walther, the company representative, "which made it different from reference tomes that only give the school's official view of itself."
Almost immediately Georges set about finding experienced authors for the write-ups. "We took three years of freshman face books and made a list of who went where, which ended up as 20 pages of printout, and just called down the list" in quest of someone to write up the schools, he says. "By the end of that school year we had 75 entries, which wasn't enough, but was a good base," Georges says.
However, during this time, the Crimson decided not to go through with the plan, and some of his friends who had been helping him moved on to other things, so Georges stopped working on it. "I was stuck with the lists of people, the interested publishers, and 75 write-ups of schools, but I did nothing with it that summer," Georges says.
The next year Georges tried again to get the Crimson to lend its name to the book, but again the Crimson decided against sponsoring the project. Georges wanted to go through with the book, however, and approached the Independent staff, who accepted his proposal.
"Publishers weren't going to want 'The Chris Georges Guide,' but 'Harvard Guide' would sell," Georges says. "However, you can't use the Harvard name unless you're with an organization. The Independent was willing, well-equipped, and associated with writing."
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