Best Books For the College-Bound

College is expensive even before that admissions letter arrives. An entire industry exists around books aimed at helping find the right college along with earn the top test scores, write the best essays and ace the interviews to be accepted. To help sort through all of the information and help save some of the cost, we informally surveyed high school counselors in the Triangle, Triad and Charlotte areas to ask which books they recommend to their students. “The Fiske Guide to Colleges” was at or near the top of the list for most. Here are additional suggestions, including comments from some of the counselors or brief synopses.

“Admissions Confidential” by Rachel Toor 
“Written by a former Duke admissions officer with insights into her experience working at a selective university.”
— Scottie Dietz

“The College Admissions Mystique” by Bill Mayher 
“It is almost like a heart-to-heart conversation with parents and students about the college admissions process and how the increasing selectivity has played out for students. I like it because it is well-written, nuts-and-bolts approach to the process that tires to help families not take the process so personally. He also does a great job of encouraging families to think beyond ‘ranked’ colleges.’ Great college educations are out there without big names.”
–Katie Elsasser

“College Board Book of Majors” by the College Board
“Covers a range of pertinent areas to give students a broader understanding of their interest areas and other majors the student might also consider.”
–Angela Conno

“College Match: A Blueprint for Choosing the Best School for You” by Steven Antonoff and Marie Friedemann
Think of it as a road map to picking a school, complete with worksheets to help students understand themselves and the colleges they’re considering.

“Colleges that Change Lives: 40 Schools That You Should Know About Even if You’re not a Straight A Student” by Loren Pope
“Identifies excellent colleges that do great things for their students but that may not receive national acclaim for doing so.”
— Sean Kennedy

“Cool Colleges for the Hyper-Intelligent, Self-Directed, Late-Blooming and Just Plain Different” by Donald Asher
“A great book for any student, not just those listed above, because more than any other book I use, it shows a range of post-secondary educational opportunities, presented in a humorous, user-friendly way.”
— Janelle Sharpe

“Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers” by Elaina Loveland
“A perfect resource for students who want to pursue theater, visual art, dance andor music in college. The essays written by students and professors helps students think about how to put together a portfolio and decide between a conservatory and traditional college program.”
–Gwen Roulhac

“The Gatekeepers” by Jacques Steinberg
A reporter with “The New York Times” shadowed an admissions officer from a selective school for the year and wrote about the admissions process from beginning to end.

“Getting in Without Freaking Out: The Official College Admissions Guide for Overwhelmed Parents” by Arlene Matthews
More than 100 “secrets” in the process, from “Obstacles Have Merit” to “Save Something for Oprah.” Humor goes a long way during an inherently stressful process.

“Harvard Schmarvard: Getting Beyond the Ivy League to the College that is Best for You” by Jay Mathews
An education reporter and columnist for “The Washington Post,” Mathews makes it clear that the best college is the right college, regardless of its name, and then helps explain the process. The books’ appendix includes a list of 100 “hidden gems,” schools he describes as “better than you think.”

“K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities” by Princeton Review
“Updated yearly, this guide offers information to students with learning disabilities and their parents. It explains the student services and admissions process at several hundred colleges for LD students.”
–Sean Kennedy

“Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years” by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger
“Based on the real-life experience of parents of college-age students.”
— Scottie Dietz

Thanks to these high school counselors for their suggestions: Paula Faye Cook, Jordan High School, Durham; Angela Conno, Ravenscroft School, Raleigh; Scottie Dietz, St. David’s School, Raleigh; Katie Elsasser, Charlotte Country Day School, Charlotte; Mary Gratch, Carrboro High School, Carrboro; Valorie Hallenbeck, Enloe High School, Raleigh; Sean Kennedy, Forsyth Country Day School, Lewisville; Gwen D. Roulhac, Riverside High School, Durham; Janelle Sharp, Panther Creek High School, Cary; Lin Shropshire, Myers Park High School, Charlotte; Kim Ward, Orange High School, Hillsborough .