These are the books I found most helpful.  To order one from Amazon, just click on the photo of the book or on the green link.

Preparing for College:

College Planning for Gifted ChildrenCollege Planning for Gifted Students: Choosing and Getting into the Right College, by Sandra L. Berger

“…suggestions, inventories, and checklists that are important for all college-bound teens. Of particular interest may be the sections on gifted students with disabilities and homeschoolers. Berger walks college-hopefuls through every step, from making an educational plan in seventh grade, to writing a successful essay, asking for letters of recommendation, and making the final choice. The book includes a glossary of college-planning terms, appendixes of early-entrance programs, Web sites, ACT/SAT hints and resources, a junior-year planning checklist, and contests and competitions.”—Morgan Johnson-Doyle, Sierra High School, Colorado Springs, CO

Test Prep:

Selecting Colleges:

Colleges That Change LivesColleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College by Loren Pope

In-depth profiles of 40 smaller private colleges that provide fantastic educations.   I had both my kids read through the book and pick which colleges they wanted to visit.   Because the book is organized geographically, you have the option of having your kids read only about schools in the area you want to target.  Because of this book, we visited  Clark University, Hampshire College, Reed College, and Rhodes College and my daughter is attending Clark.   To read my blog posts on each of them, search for their names in the Categories drop down box.

Cool CollegesCool Colleges for the Hyper-Intelligent, Self-Directed, Late Blooming, and Just Plain Different by Donald Asher.

Innovative and unorthodox colleges are profiled here along with many lists — engineering schools, schools that don’t require SAT or ACT scores, eco programs, great books schools, minority-focused colleges, maritime academies, schools with massive endowments, totally free and tuition free schools — and great advice on large vs. small schools,  “Why Distance Doesn’t Matter, and All Schools are Local”, and  “Should you go to the best college you can get into?”

Fiske GuideThe Fiske Guide to Getting Into the Right College by Edward Fiske is intended to be an comprehensive guide, but I like it for the “One Hour College Finder” – extremely brief synopses of colleges in many categories (elite, small, best-kept secrets, Catholic, conservative, nonconformist, women’s, historically black, and innovative colleges) and the lists of colleges with prominent pre-professional programs ( engineering, architecture, business, art & design, performing arts, communications / journalism, film/television.)



A is for AdmissionA is for Admission: The Insider’s Guide to Getting into the Ivy League and Other Top Colleges by Michele A. Hernandez

“Former Dartmouth assistant director of admissions Hernandez describes the step-by-step process Ivy League schools use to evaluate an application. Along the way she settles some ancient debates, including the comparative importance of SATs versus high-school grades, public versus private high schools, and extracurricular activities versus part-time employment. She evaluates every possible factor affecting chances for admission, including special categories of students such as recruited athletes, minority applicants, and legacies. Most dramatically, Hernandez reveals the precise mathematical formula used by admissions officers to rank applicants. Using her guidelines, readers can calculate their own AI (Academic Index) and–should their scores come up short–learn ways to compensate in other areas.”



The College Hook is all about how to “package” a student’s interests and activities into a coherent application that has a theme or “hook”, so the admissions committee will think of a kid as “the diplomat” or “the journalist”.  This is a great book to hand to a student, because you can identify two chapters that sound a bit like your kid and tell him to read only those two chapters…not a daunting  task…so he will get the idea.  Big caveat: the students featured in this book are so over-the-top successful, that you and your students will feel like losers in comparisons.  So take it with a grain of salt.


The Early Admissions Game

The Early Admissions Game: Joining the Elite by Christopher Avery

“In essence, the early admission programs offer students a Faustian deal: apply early at a top school and you will get a much greater chance of being accepted. On the other hand, you will probably have reduced or eliminated your choice of colleges, and you will limit your financial aid.”

“Their research is unequivocal; applying Early Action (EA) is the equivalent of a 100-point boost in SAT score… Early Decision (ED) is the equivalent of a 150 + point boost in SAT score…African Americans benefit from a staggering 400-point advantage.”

Read this book to figure out whether or not you want to apply for Early Decision.

Getting In Without Freaking OutGetting In Without Freaking Out: : The Official College Admissions Guide for Overwhelmed Parents by Arlene Matthews

Down to earth, humorous, hype-free explanations for parents about the entire college selection process.  When everybody has you stressed out – or before they stress you out – read this one.


The Price of AdmissionThe Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges – and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates by Daniel Golden, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Wall Street Journal

Is higher education in America a meritocracy?  Daniel Golden claims it is corrupted by colleges’ desires to reward alumni, curry favor with rich donors and legislators, staff athletic teams that draw rich spectators, and avoid recruiting minorities.   Why would you want to read such a discouraging book?    (a) Asians need to understand that excelling in math and science doesn’t make them stand out.  (b) Parents may choose to encourage “patrician” sports like squash and lacrosse instead of soccer, basketball and football.

Surviving College:

I Am Charlotte SimmonsI Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe

Girls should read this novel before heading off to college so they won’t be naive about parties and relationships.  A sheltered, beautiful and brilliant freshman from North Carolina gets into fictional Dupont University, where she finds that sex, booze, and being cool – not academics – are the focus in the dog-eat-dog world of a university.


Getting Good Grades in CollegeA great gift for the recent grad or for a student who is struggling in college, the Professors’ Guide to Getting Good Grades in College by Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman will provide many specific tips on how to figure out and meet the professor’s expectations.  Because it is divided up into sections that correspond to the beginning, middle and end of the semester, it does not have to be read all at once and can easily be used as a reference.  [Read my complete review here.]

In addition to buying the book, you may also want to read the Professor’s blog posts  on U.S. News and World  Report’s website.

Comtemplating / Succeeding in Grad School

Getting What You Came ForGetting What You Came For: The Smart Student’s Guide to Earning a Master’s or Ph.D., by Robert L. Peters, Ph. D.

If your student might eventually attend grad school, I recommend both parent and child read this book…even as early as before starting undergrad.  It helps you grapple with whether it make sense to pursue a graduate degree, what it will take to do so, and how to pick advisors and thesis topics that will help, not hinder the process.  (Some of that advice is useful for the undergrad experience, too.)  Benefit from the insights of some graduate students who struggled along the way.  As Stephen Covey says, “Start with the end in mind”.


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