7 Books To Make The Lead Up to College Less Stressful

Posted by Suzanne on January 15, 2020
Across the U.S., many high-school seniors are entering the nail-biting period of waiting for college admissions decisions. While the die has been cast for them, if you have kids in 9th, 10th, or 11th grade, there’s a crop of new and some established books to help guide you through the next few years.

Hopefully, as you better understand the college landscape, it will reduce stress levels. And if you do have a senior, check out book recommendation #5 which is written for the transition from high school to college.

Be sure to add the books that pique your interest to your Want to Read shelf.


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The journey to college requires a delicate balance as parents and teenagers navigate their way from an adult:child relationship to an adult:adult (or adultish!) relationship. This book provides exactly the calming and confidence-boosting advice we all need. It’s also a practical guide which demystifies the process and gives step-by-step guidance. Most of all, the authors encourage parents and children to keep coming back to what’s most important: the love they have for each other.

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Belasco and Bergman’s goal is to make you more informed college consumers. They explain the college admissions process, (with lots of helpful data) and advise you on ways to improve your application (many of which need to start a couple of years in advance). They also help you think strategically about how your college choices can impact your ability to win need-based and/or merit aid. All in all, this is a solid guide to help you feel more confident as you get ready for applying to college.

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With frank and direct advice from more than 70 Deans of Admission, this accessible guide walks you through the different stages of preparing for college, including details on how colleges will evaluate your application. The chapter on essays gives students a draft-by-draft working plan as well as pitfalls to avoid. Also, scattered throughout the book are explanations of the jargon of college admissions which is useful for students aiming to be the first in their family to go to college.

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While the Fiske Guide to Colleges is likely the starting point for many college searches, it’s also worth checking out this guide.. All reviews are based on student surveys and two particularly useful and illuminating data points are “Professors Interesting Rating” and “Professors Accessible Rating.” Research shows that having professors who care about you as a person and who make you excited about learning are critical to success. It’s sometimes surprising seeing which colleges rate lower here, and worth considering as you narrow your search.

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Congratulations, your child has been admitted! But you’re now in a crucial period. Rinere, as a former dean at Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia has seen what it takes to help your child transition from high school to college. She advises you on three key phases ahead of you: 1) Committing to a College, 2) Staying Sane from May to August (including some decision points with the forms and communications from colleges), and 3) Starting Strong at College. Rinere also recognizes that this is a time of change for parents and helps you prepare for the new hole in your life as your child leaves for college.

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After a decade as Dean of Freshman at Stanford, Lynthcott-Haims noticed a growing trend of overparenting. Thanks to more and more parents becoming their children’s concierges, assistants, and life managers, some students are arriving at college in a state of learned helplessness. Meanwhile research shows that figuring things out for themselves is a critical element to a person’s mental health. Lythcott-Haims shares a checklist of things a freshman student should be capable of handling and gives tips on how to build self-efficiency.

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Finally, if you’re interested in understanding more about the college admissions world, Tough’s new book is thought-provoking and revealing. Reading the section, “Letting In,” on how colleges approach admissions is simultaneously insightful and scary. You'll learn about enrollment managers and the challenge colleges have of creating a class that has enough full-paying students to hit revenue targets. Ultimately, though, Tough leaves you inspired with stories of dedicated professors experimenting with new approaches to increase the number of students making it through to graduation.

All of the above books can help make you more informed and confident about the college application process, but if you need one more point to lower stress levels, I’ll leave you with this one from Barnard and Clark:

“This is going to work out. Here is how we know: every year—every year—we talk to current college students who say they did not end up at their first choice because they were denied, and they are so glad. They cannot imagine being anywhere but the place they landed. In the days immediately after a denial you will not believe that, but it is 100 percent true. Fact: you are going to end up somewhere great.”

What book would you recommend for parents of children getting ready for college?

Let's talk books in the comments!

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Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Samuel (new)

Samuel Willoughby Would these apply to other school systems like that of Australia?

message 2: by Philip (last edited Jan 15, 2020 09:01AM) (new)

Philip Samuel wrote: "Would these apply to other school systems like that of Australia?"

I'd be very surprised if these books apply to any academic establishment outside the authors' perspectives. I've been observing and attempting many kinds of educative systems - as far as that is possible for one person alone - and it's my experience so far that the systems are very difficult to compare and all come with their individual pros and cons. What a student might helpful for one college / university / school might be utterly pointless, if not harmful, at the next one.

During my own first steps towards becoming an educator - a path of which I had fled for the grim future success would promise - the seed was planted in my mind which would grow to my current suspicion that when an educative system is profit-oriented, increasing graduation quotas is good for the accountants, but a downward spiral for education as a cultural / intellectual property of the people.

HollyLovesBooks Samuel wrote: "Would these apply to other school systems like that of Australia?"

I don't know anything about the admissions process in other countries outside of the USA, however, one of my children attends Georgia Tech where Rick Clark is the Director of Admissions. If you get the chance to look at their website, www.gatech.edu and then admissions, look at his blog specifically. He is fantastic in how he (and his staff) discusses the college admissions process and breaks it down. We really utilized this in the college search and it helped not only to know what my child was looking for in a school but to understand if the schools he thought he was considering were the right match for him as well. I fully value Rick Clark's insight and his willingness to share this to try to recruit the students who fit his school but help other students find the right fit for them as well. Good luck!

message 4: by MrsER (new)

MrsER An excellent book for Conservative parents (although not recent) is Dr. Thomas Sowell's Choosing a College: A Guide for Parents and Students. Parents can also find information online. For example: "The 20 Best Conservative Colleges in America" (https://thebestschools.org/rankings/2...).

message 5: by Zak (new)

Zak Charlton Thank you so much for the acutated list of books to study. But in addition to these books, I also use the website https://studyhippo.com/hunter-safety-... to unload and help during the preparation for various exams. On this site there is a hunter safety exam, which helped to perform the tests.

message 6: by MrsER (new)

MrsER Zak wrote: "Thank you so much for the acutated list of books to study."

What does "acutated " mean?

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