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Articles / Preparing for College / Books about College

Books about College

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Nov. 11, 2013
Those of you college-bound seniors out there have no doubt been deeply involved in your college application process lately. It's highly likely that most of you have already made your decisions about where you would like to go and to which schools you will be applying. For you high school juniors, your search and evaluation process may already be underway. If you're certain about going to college and you haven't begun thinking about starting your process, you should get started now. You'll be surprised how fast that first day of your senior year will arrive, and it's far better to hit the ground running on that day with a solid college plan in place.

For both seniors and juniors (and sophomores, too), there's an entire universe of help available for you out there, both on the Internet, inside books, and even through real live people. For the sake of our discussion today, though, I would like to limit help resources to books. I've written a book about the college process (long ago, though), so I'm familiar with the kinds of issues high school students face when dealing with all the pressure to produce winning applications. Since that book was published, there has been a huge sea change in the world of college admissions, due in no small part to technology and Internet developments and refinements.

So, in order to stay ahead of what's happening in this rapidly changing area, and to get a wide variety of opinions about how to deal with all of it, you might want to do what they refer to in graduate school as a “review of the literature." You would be surprised at how many college how-to books exist. In fact, just to satisfy my curiosity, I went to Amazon and searched for “books about college." I got this huge list that covered virtually every aspect of the college experience, from starting the college search process through actually applying, visiting, enrolling, and (for parents) letting go of your children when they head off to campus. All these merely scratch the surface. There are tons of other books that talk about paying for college, transferring to other schools, going to graduate school, searching for jobs at graduation … Well, you get the idea.

In honor of this massive pile of books, I thought I would do a quick roundup of a small group of them. Disclaimer: I have no connection with any of them and I'm not listing any of the following as a stealth promotion. I'm just making a somewhat random selection from my Amazon search and including a few words from either the publishers' descriptions or a reviewer's comments. So, maybe one or two of these will pique your interest and you can follow up as needed.

Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds by Richard J. Light

… There are some surprises, too: students Light spoke with demand high writing standards and favor unpredictability in their professors' political opinions. A major portion of the book argues that the benefits of diversity on college campuses have been underestimated and that awkward culture clashes can ultimately provide a positive, if at the time uncomfortable, learning experience. Still, the author's efforts to extrapolate from the experiences of these privileged students to the majority of college students are often unconvincing. …

Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: College by David Borgenicht

Filled with cheeky but practical solutions to just about any problem a college student could face, this slender volume opens with an ominous warning: “when a life is imperiled or a dire situation is at hand, safe alternatives may not exist." Nonetheless, many of the situations it tackles are far from life threatening; how to avoid doing laundry, how to pull an all-nighter and how to identify bad cafeteria food are among them. …

College Survival Tips: What Your Mother Might Not Tell You About Making The Grade by Ceil Hall

A survival kit in one concise book, College Survival Tips helps students succeed in college by offering practical, specific advice about coping with a heavy workload, managing relationships with professors, and getting the most out of college life so that students can excel in school and prepare for a career. Written in a relaxed, conversational style, this book is helpful, fun and a quick read. …

Living the College Life: Real Students, Real Experiences, Real Advice (Cliffs Notes) by Kenneth J. Paulsen

College will be one of the most exciting and intimidating times of your life, and you're going to have questions as you head into this new experience. Living the College Life gives you real answers to common questions–answers from students who have “been there, done that." More than 100 upperclassmen and recent graduates from colleges all over the country candidly discuss what worked–and what didn't work–for them. …

Admission Matters: What Students and Parents Need to Know About Getting into College by Sally P. Springer

This thoroughly revised and updated edition of the bestselling book Admission Matters demystifies the college application process and offers practical advice for choosing the right school, writing an effective essay, navigating financial aid, and more. This handy resource will help any college-bound student whether they attend well-funded private schools or cash-strapped public schools. Filled with helpful suggestions, ideas, and advice, the new edition also includes tips for home-schooled students who are preparing to attend college. …

Countdown to College: 21 To Do Lists for High School: Step-By-Step Strategies for 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th Graders 2nd Edition by Valerie Pierce

Countdown to College: 21 'To Do' Lists for High School is an easy to follow timeline to help students maximize their high school years and optimize their chances of 'getting where they want to go.' While encouraging exploration and self-discovery, these “to do's" provide the nitty gritty details necessary to the college admissions process. There will be no missed deadlines, or missed opportunities, as this step-by-step guide shows students and parents what to do and when to do it. …

How Minority Students Experience College: Implications for Planning and Policy by Lemuel Watson

… Have three decades of integration and multicultural initiatives in higher education delivered a better education to all students? Are majority and minority students reaping similar benefits, specifically in predominantly white colleges? Do we know what a multicultural campus should look like, and how to design one that is welcoming to all students and promotes a learning environment? Through a unique qualitative study involving seven colleges and universities considered national models of commitment to diversity, this book presents the views and voices of minority students on what has been achieved and what remains to be done.

Mom's College Planning Guide: All the Tips You Need to Know to Launch Your Child off to College by Elaine Smoot

The indispensable guide for parents of college-bound students, “Mom's College Planning Guide" includes all the tips and hints you need to know. Get the inside scoop on how to help your student through the application process and what to look for when visiting. Check out the most complete College Supplies List available. Discover ways to manage emotions during the tumultuous college application season, and after.

Preparing Students with Disabilities for College Success by Stan Shaw Ed.D.

This is a comprehensive, accessible guide for making successful transitions to postsecondary education for students with high-incidence or hidden disabilities. Recent evidence has shown that college may be the most productive way to 'level the playing field' for students with disabilities, and this book provides the information teachers, related services personnel (e.g., counselors, school psychologists) and parents need to help students succeed. …

Homeschooling High School: Planning Ahead for College Admission (New and Updated) by Jeanne Gowen Dennis

Homeschooling High School is your comprehensive resource for the crucial high school years. Find answers to your questions about grading scales, diplomas, prerequisites, entrance exams, financial aid and scholarship eligibility, application procedures…all while reaching your family's ideal balance between automony and accountability in your home high school. …


These are just 10 random picks from a long list of selections on Amazon. Whatever your needs or questions are about college, you'll find the answers among the books on this list. If you can't (well, you already know what I'm going to say), there's always College Confidential.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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