Best College Application Books

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Best College Application Books
By Over30 (Over30) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 10:13 pm: Edit

Several moms were talking recently about applying to college. Some of us have been through this already but all of us still have younger students. I have shared what I've learned here and seem to be getting more and more questions from parents and students. One question I can't really answer is which are the best books to use for admissions information. I've recommended the Harry Bauld book "On Writing the College Application Essay" which is the only book we looked at. I've heard about these but haven't used them: "Colleges that Change Lives," "The Gatekeepers," "A is for Admissions," and the "Fiske Guide." Can anyone tell me about these and recommend others please (and any you wouldn't recommend). I'm interested in books about:

Top/Ivy calibre schools
Less competitive colleges
Anything else you think is important

I know these books have been mentioned before, but I think a list with everything in one place would be useful. I'm not interested in test prep books. Thanks!

By Blaineko (Blaineko) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 10:40 pm: Edit

"College That Change Lives", and "Looking Beyond the Ivy League" are similar and talk about the whole range of schools.

"The Gatekeepers" follows the Wesleyan ad-com through out the process of picking the class of 2004. It talks about a myrid of issues, and how the ad-coms percieve applicants and make decisons in the process.

"Fiske's Guide" is a book of write-ups on college that gives one the flavor of particular colleges. Like the "Yale Daily News Insider's Guide", these are great for narrowing down colleges.

"A is for Admissions" is a great guide that deals with how an individual can package themselves for competative schools.

Check out "Rock Hard Apps", by K. Cohen. It is another great resource to further distinguish an individual's application to the best schools.

By Reidmc (Reidmc) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 10:50 pm: Edit

I apologize to CCers that have seen this post before, but I have some very specific favorites. You'll find most of these at your library and many bargain-priced at Amazon used and new sellers, or

General Overview - The College Admissions Mystique (Mayher)

Individual College Info - Fiske Guide and Princeton Review Best 3XX Colleges

Admission Strategies - What it Really Takes to Get into the Ivy Leagues (Hughes) and Acing the College Application (Hernandez) - "Acing" is more useful than A is for Admission

Application Essays - College Admission Essays for Dummies (Woods) - adults apprectiate the Bauld book, but I think students will be more engaged by Woods. And still available for $1.75 (+ shipping)via Amazon used and new sellers.

One More? - Colleges that Change Lives (Pope) - this book is a good counterbalance to the Hughes and Hernandez books and excellent for students who are not at the top of the SAT/GPA range.

By Patient (Patient) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 10:54 pm: Edit

I prepared a bibliography last year to share with friends whose children were younger. Here it is--I don't pretend it is comprehensive or authoritative. It is based on the ones I read and liked, and those recommended by frequent posters on this board whose experience I trusted:

General guides to the college application process:

1. Robbins, Wendy. The Portable College Adviser: A guide for High School Students. (Avery basic, but good for those really beginning this process or those totally unfamiliar with things; even explains the importance of A.P.s, etc.)
2. Rubenstone, Sally. The Panicked Parents Guide to College Admissions. Again, a basic information guide to all phases of the college process, written as advice to parents about how to approach things.
3. Mathews, Jay. Harvard Schmarvard Valuable for giving a sense of perspective to the process. Also really helpful information on college visits, etc.

Admissions advice

1. Hernandez, Michele. A is for Admission. Written by a former admissions officer at Dartmouth. A detailed and forthright guide to how the admissions offices handle applications at elite schools. Hernandez has also written Acing the College Application.
2. Hughes. What it Really Takes to get into the Ivy League and Other Highly Selective Colleges. Hernandez recommends this book.
3. Avery, Christopher. The Early Admissions GameBjoining the elite. This book explains the process but also points out some of the inequities in the early admissions phase of college application. He points out that it is much easier to gain admission at the early phase and that the process benefits upper class, informed applicants at the expense of others.
4. Moll, Richard. Playing the Selective College Admissions Game.
5. Mayher, Bill. The College Admissions Mystique. Recommended by a college guidance counselor as a particularly good read.
6. Montauk, Richard. How to get into the top colleges.
7. Other guides which are controversial: Admissions Confidential (about Duke); The Gatekeepers (about Wesleyan); Rock Hard Apps (written by a professional college counselor, criticized for being too formulaic and coachy)

General Guides to Colleges, all updated annually.

1. Fiske, Edward B. The Fiske Guide to Colleges.
2. Princeton Review. The Best 351 Colleges.
3. Yale Daily News. The Insider=s Guide to the Colleges
4. U.S. News and World Reports. Annual college rankings.

Essay writing

1. Bauld, Harry. On Writing the College Application Essay. Universally recommended.


1. DiSalvo. College Admissions for the High School Athlete

Performing Arts

1. Everett. Performing Arts Majors College Guide

In Depth Guides on Particular Types of Colleges

1. Colleges that Change Lives--Loren Pope
2. Looking beyond the Ivy League--Loren Pope
3. Cool Colleges
4. Hidden Ivies. Greene
5. Public Ivies. Greene
6. Inside the Top Colleges. These are really in depth descriptions. There is an aspect of criticizing the political climate of the school that is conservative and also an emphasis on liberal arts education facets of the schools.
7. Choosing the Right College ISI Guide

And for those who think I am absolutely nuts, don't worry, I read a couple of these cover-to-cover, skimmed a lot, and didn't read a few at all, just relied on good posters here.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 11:39 pm: Edit

This one is a very nice complement to Bauld's book:

Essays that will get YOU into College.
by Burnham, Kaufman, Dowman - published by Barron's.

At a retail price of $11.95, this is a bargain. Simple and effective. There is another book about essays that is decent but the rest is pretty awful, especially the one about essays that got kids into Harvard.

By Over30 (Over30) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 11:45 pm: Edit

Thanks everyone. I'm printing this out. I've seen so many of these boos but just didn't know which ones were worth reading. Xiggi, I tried to read that Harvard book at the library and I agree it was awful.

I'm going to recommend that our PTA purchase a few sets of these books for check-out in the GC's office.

By Patient (Patient) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 03:31 am: Edit

Thanks Xiggi, I personally didn't like the Bauld book all that much but many others swear by it. Our high school had a presentation by a local teacher, who had served in the admissions office at several top schools, about essay writing that was far, far, better than anything Bauld wrote. Sorry that isn't in book form.

By Dadofsam (Dadofsam) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 12:33 pm: Edit

I haven't even seen some of the ones mentioned, but have skimmed a number of those listed. The ones I found most useful were Fiske for general descriptions of the colleges, USNWR for statistics and good general advice and Harvard Schmarvard for perspective and suggestions for alternatives to the top 25 or whatever number one likes. I found Fiske more useful than the Princeton Review 300+.

I read A is for Admissions early on, but after reading a number of posts here on CC and having gone through the process I find it to have a bad combination of undeserved arrogance and datedness. On the latter, the book is a few years old and the switch to on-line applications (and the strong preference for them by the admissions offices) combined with the increase in their numbers makes some of her recommendations not only obsolete but counterproductive.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 12:40 pm: Edit

Truly the best book I found on how to put together an application that truly reflects the student in the best possible and most vivid light is the one by our own Dave Berry, America's Elite Colleges. There are other things in this deceptively little paperback, but the heart of the book is the chapter where he goes through a student's successful application point by point and explains in considerable detail the thinking that went into each answer. I think this is a much-neglected topic; a student may have a terrific record, stats, ECs, etc., but it is usually the application and not the student him/herself that the college is seeing, and so the application itself had better look great.

By Patient (Patient) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 12:58 pm: Edit

I liked Fiske and the Insider's Guide both better the the PR 351 Colleges, but I thought reading on the colleges of interest in all 3 was always helpful.

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