Amazon lists 6,533 results for “college admission books.” That includes test guides, college guides, “Teen & Young Adult SAT Study Aids,” how to write the college application essay, education workbooks, higher & continuing education and more. So there’s plenty to choose from when starting the college process.
Willard Dix, who covers the college admissions process for Forbes reviewed many of those books and came up with a list of ten top ones that are great and can really help your students navigate the admissions process. Here is his list and a summary of each book:
1. Are You Smart Enough? How Colleges’ Obsession With Smartness Shortchanges Students, by Alexander W. Astin. Prof. Astin is founding director of UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, so he knows whereof he speaks. The real issue isn’t about being “smart,” as measured by GPAs and test scores, but about the very narrow definition of “smartness” that colleges and universities depend on in admission. He believes (as do I) that professors are often looking for graduate students who have already made their marks instead of curious students who arrive at college ready to learn.
2. Beyond College for All by James Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum looks at how high school and post-high school are and aren’t connected, relating that to the connections students need to make once they’re in the job market. A sociologist at Northwestern, he offers theories about how and why the connections work or don’t work. His perspective on the links from high school to college to work are eye opening.
3. Campus Life by Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz. If you think “kids today” have abandoned the sober and studious life of the mind that their predecessors took seriously, you’ll be surprised by Horowitz’s revelations. And you’ll be glad today’s students only complain about grades to their professors instead of beating them up. Entertaining and highly readable.
4. College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family by Steven Roy Goodman and Andrea Leiman. This one is about how to go through the college admission process, but it’s also a thoughtful and humane look at how to work together as a family. A lot of my own perspective on the dynamic there comes from this book.
5. Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of American Universities by Craig Steven Wilder. We tend to idealize higher education institutions as beacons of enlightenment, but their histories are more complex than that. Prof. Wilder’s look at the intersection of higher education, race and slavery provides plenty of thought-provoking moments. It’s not an indictment, per se; it’s a sobering and balanced look at the realities that accompanied the founding of many of our most revered institutions.
6. The Thinking Student’s Guide to College: 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education by Andrew Roberts. There are plenty of silly books about “surviving” and “thriving” in college that attempt to reach students by adopting the hip language of the moment, but they usually come off as parents trying to look “cool” as they brutally embarrass their children in front of their friends. This book doesn’t insult anyone’s intelligence and spends plenty of time on the real reason students should be in college, not just about social and personal issues.
7. Standardized Minds: The High Price of America’s Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It by Peter Sacks. A good analysis of how testing has deformed education. Sacks is a good researcher and storyteller.
8. Taking Time Off by Ron Lieber & Colin Hall. Ron writes a financial advice column for the New York Times and is a fellow Amherst alum. If going right from high school to college seems too overpowering for your student, this book might be the one to read.
9. The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy by Nicholas Lemann. A fascinating look at the origins and rise of the SAT. Intertwined with early 20th century ideas about IQ and racial differences, it also began its life in college admission as a way to discover and admit boys (always boys way back when) out of the usual orbits of Harvard and Yale. Now, of course, it’s become just the opposite: A way to weed out applicants.
10. The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager by Thomas Hine. It’s hard to believe, but at one time there was no such thing as a “teenager.” You were a kid, then you went to school for a while, then you were an adult. Hine illustrates the evolution of the term and the forces (particularly marketing) that shaped our understanding of it. More recently, we have “tweens,” another variant. Entertaining and well-observed.
You can check out his blog about the college admissions process here: collegeculture.net