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O'Hara author's book makes cameo in Tina Fey's 'Admission'

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Admission tips

Berk offers some advice to parents and kids who are searching for the right college.

• First, don't focus on just one school — a very bad idea. “There are plenty of good schools for anyone,” she says.

• Before applying to any schools, do your research. Don't rely just on brochures from the schools. Look for the inside story. College Prowler can be a good source.

• Think about what type of environment you prefer. Some people, like Berk's kids, thrive at a school in the middle of Manhattan, but others want a suburban or more rural setting. To get a feel for the environment, go to the campus and have lunch there.

• Consider the costs of a school. There is no point in applying somewhere if there's no chance you can afford it, but the financial-aid packages may make a difference. You can take a loan out for college, but you can't take a loan out for your retirement. Think about whether you want to attend graduate school someday, which adds to the overall education costs.

Pittsburgher movie quiz for yunz

Is 'Birdman' star Michael Keaton the best actor with western Pennsylvania ties? Click here to play the Trib's tongue-in-cheek attempt to find out.

Thursday, March 21, 2013, 7:21 p.m.

When Nancy Berk received a release from a movie company, asking for permission to use her book in the new film “Admission,” she felt thrilled, but cautious.

The O'Hara resident's book — “College Bound and Gagged: How to Help Your Kid Get Into a Great College Without Losing Your Savings, Your Relationship or Your Mind” ($12.95, Nancy Berk Media, LLC) — appears in a scene in “Admission.”

In the scene, Tina Fey, who plays a Princeton admissions officer, gives the book to Paul Rudd, who is trying to get a student admitted to the Ivy League university.

Berk — who will appear at an “Admissions” screening March 22 and do a book signing — signed the release last year. But she thought: What are the odds that a book might survive the cutting floor in the film-production process?

The book “gets its cameo, which is fine with me because, really, what's the likelihood that you're ever going to have a book in a movie, let alone a Tina Fey movie?” Berk says. “It's just a fun nod that gives my book a little bit of steam and makes me smile.

“It validates (the book) at some level,” she says. “It just reminds me of a really important part of our family's journey.”

Berk wrote her book — published in October 2011 — from experience as a parent. One of her sons, Dan Berk, graduated from New York University, and another, Hunter Berk, is a sophomore there. Berk says her book blends humor with practical tips to help families get through the trying and exhausting time of choosing a college for their kids, and then sending them off to school.

Berk, 53, is a clinical psychologist with a Ph.D., who serves as adjunct assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Dental Medicine, where she teaches future dentists about interacting and empathizing with patients. Berk's other writing credits include the book “Secrets of a Bar Mitzvah Mom” and blogging for USA Today College and The Huffington Post.

Karen Croner — the screenwriter who penned the “Admissions” movie, based on the book of the same name by Jean Hanff Korelitz — says Berk's book fit the script perfectly and serves the same purpose as the movie. The movie relates to parents and kids and the stress they are going through and “dispels the misery so anyone applying or waiting will come out of the movie feeling better about whatever is inside that letter that arrives.”

The movie shows how passionate and overwhelmed admissions officers are, Croner says.

“The system is flooded with thousands and thousands of applications, and there's just not room for every amazing kid out there,” Croner says. “People believe they have to become superkids ... because of the number of people trying.

“I think that the movie ... is a movie with a lot of parts,” she says. In portraying the college-admissions process, the movie “helps us laugh at it and understand, and ... alleviate some of the crazy pressure that everyone feels.”

Nancy Berk, with the help of Mystery Lovers' Bookshop, will do a talk and book-signing after the 7 p.m. “Admission” screening March 22 at The Oaks Theater, 310 Allegheny River Blvd., Oakmont.

Details: 412-828-4877

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7824.

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