“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”- Marcus Tullius Cicero


NACAC Book Reviews Page

Will Dix’s Book Recommendations

Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions’ Reading List

Books for the Secondary Side

There are many great books out there on the college admission process. These are just a sampling of what’s in my bookcase. Not included here are books that have an agenda, focus on the process at one institution, rank or rate institutions, show you how to package students, or add to the frenzy surrounding the college process. Disclosure: I currently use Admission Matters and Cool Colleges as textbooks in my classroom and recommend Crazy U as optional reading. They were chosen for their readability, affordability, and comprehensive coverage of most of the topics I want to discuss in my class. It is important to understand that most books on the college process are out of date the day after publication; the college admission process landscape is changing that fast these days. So use these books to get a general feel for the college process, but make sure you visit the source — whether college, testing agency, FAFSA, or application platform — for the most recent updates on their policies and processes.

Admission Matters
by Springer, Reider and Morgan. Whether you are a parent or student just learning about the college process or an experienced counselor, you will appreciate the calm good sense of this comprehensive, easy read. No hype, no agenda -- how refreshing!

The College Admission Mystique by Bill Mayher. A classic.

College Counseling Sourcebook, from the College Board. Full of useful handouts, this book is used by some counselor educators for their textbook.

College Match by Steven Antonoff. Highly regarded step-by-step guide -- terrific book, one of the best step-by-step guides out there.

College Unranked, edited by Lloyd Thacker, from The Education Conservancy. This group is dedicated to trying to calm the frenzy surrounding competitive college admissions and “increase the awareness and understanding of commercial influences on college admissions.”

Cool Colleges
by Donald Asher. This book has long been a favorite of mine. While outdated in spots and admittedly biased in favor of liberal arts institutions (for the undergraduate), Asher is eloquent in reminding us that “almost every college is cool to someone” and articulating what makes American higher education special -- its variety, that there’s something out there for everyone. If you don’t know the difference between a co-op program and a work college or haven’t heard of Deep Springs College, this is a must-read for you.

Crazy U by Andrew Ferguson. Written from a parent’s -- and journalist’s -- perspective, this book provides some terrific discussions on hype, rankings, testing, and geodemographics.

Fundamentals of College Admission Counseling, from the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. This book cites many interesting studies, and while not the major focus of the book, the biggest takeaway for me was the impact of stress on future health, later in life. While not the major source of stress looked at in the book, the current frenzy in the Harvard-or-Bust environments is very unhealthy, and I would love to see schools, in these highly competitive areas, limit the number of AP classes students may take to six -- total (no more than three in any given year and no more than two in senior year, when students are busy with the college process). If this policy is on the school profile, the colleges will consider the student within that context.

How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims. A former student affairs officer at Stanford, Ms. Lythcott-Haims discusses the highly relevant issue of overparenting. At the start of the book, she provides an great timeline of how overparenting got to where it is today.

IEC: A Student of Colleges by Steven Antonoff. Whether you are an experienced IEC or a newbie, this book should be required reading.

I'm First! College Guide, from I'm First, formerly the Center for Student Opportunity. Particularly useful if you work with underrepresented students.

Ready, Willing, and Able: A Developmental Approach to College Access and Success
by Mandy Savitz-Romer and Suzanne M. Bouffard. Readiness for college means more than just academic readiness, and I have seen (as a teacher) a lot of kids head off to college who are just not ready -- whether emotionally, motivationally, developmentally, etc. -- for college (yet), yet we shuffle them off, willy-nilly, because that’s our mandate. So this is a book after my own heart.

The Official SAT Study Guide, from The College Board. I think all counselors should take the SAT at least once. This book contains ten practice tests.

The Real ACT Prep Guide, from ACT. Ditto.

The Truth About College Admission: A Family Guide to Getting In and Staying Together by Brennan Barnard and Rick Clark.

Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls by Lisa Damour, Ph.D.

Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni.

College Guides

Some of the guides on my bookshelf… Apologies if some are out of print. Don’t let that stop you from checking out any that interest you. You should be able to get a used copy from Amazon.

In addition to the big books (College Board, Princeton Review, etc.):

100 Colleges Where Average Students Can Excel -
I remember commenting, when I was in the Extension program, that if I put this book on my office shelf, I’d tear off the cover and rename it “100 Great College Options for the Rest of Us.”

Black Excel African-American Student’s College Guide

Book of Majors
, updated annually, from The College Board.

I'm First! Guide to Colleges,
from I'm First, formerly the Center for Student Opportunity (CSO). A terrific resource if you work with underrepresented populations.

Colleges That Change Lives, recently updated with a few changes. Great for looking outside the box.

The College Finder
by Steven Antonoff.

Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers by Elaina Loveland.

Fiske Guide to Colleges, updated annually.

Going Geek: What Every Smart Kid (and Every Smart Parent) Should Know About College Admissions by John Carpenter. I haven’t read this one; recommended by some of my students.

Good University Guide, highly recommended by a friend on the West Coast, this resource helps students considering schools in the U.K.

Harvard Schmarvard by Jay Mathews. Another resource for looking outside the box. Note Mathews is a Harvard grad.

Homeschoolers’ College Admissions Handbook by Cafi Cohen. Have not read (yet), but the home-schooled student needs some extra guidance when it comes to applying for college.

The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, useful guide for getting a feel for campus culture, updated annually from the Yale Daily News until 2015. Appears to have been discontinued but copies of the 2015 edition are available at Amazon.

The K & W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or ADHD from the Princeton Review.

Making A Difference College & Graduate Guide

Rugg’s Recommendations
by Fred Rugg.

Schools That Rock by Jenny Eliscu. A resource for your rock musicians.

Books for the College Side

Choosing Students: Higher Education Admissions Tools for the 21st Century, Wayne J. Camara and Ernest W. Kimmel, eds.

College Admissions and the Public Interest
by B. Alden Thresher. Published in 1966, the book is out of print, but you can probably get a used copy from Amazon. A classic.

The College Admissions Officer’s Guide
, Barbara Lauren, Ph.D. J.D. ed., from AACRAO. I don’t often read something I haven’t read/heard before, but I learned something new in the first sentences I scanned in this book (note I don’t always read chapters in order in books like these…).

Crafting a Class: College Admissions & Financial Aid, 1955-1994,
by Duffy and Goldberg. A history lesson for you, particularly if you work at a liberal arts institution. Published in 1998, it is out of print, but, last time I looked, you can get it used at Amazon.

Homeschoolers’ College Admissions Handbook,
Cafi Cohen. If you assess the applications of home-schooled students, this book may be of interest to you.

The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition by Tina L. Quick - if you do not have an orientation and programming specific to third culture students and their families, you should.

Again, student motivation matters. How College Works by Daniel Chambliss and Christopher Takacs takes a look at what works and what doesn’t work in college and offers some inexpensive tips for colleges. Based on a 10-year study at Hamilton College, this book is most useful if you are at a selective liberal arts school. Recommended by a college president at a recent conference.

Books on Financial Aid

The College Solution
by Lynn O’Shaughnessy.

The Art and Science of Student Aid Administration In The 21st Century,
a NASFAA publication by Joseph A. Russo.

Meeting College Costs
, an annually updated publication from the College Board. I do not believe they are still publishing this. If not, even a used older version will provide a simple understanding of the principles of financial aid.

Scholarship Handbook, updated annually from the College Board.

Books on Transition to College

How to College: What To Know Before Your Go (And When You're There)
by Andrea Malkin Brenner and Lara Hope Schwartz.
The Naked Roommate
by Harlan Cohen.
The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only by Harlan Cohen.
This Book Will Not Be on the Test: The Study Skills Revolution by Paul Rivas Smith.
Will This Be On The Test? by Dana Johnson.


The Blessing of a B- and The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel (recommended by my students).

Excellence: Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too?
by John W. Gardner.

The Game of Life
by James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen. A classic on the topic of college athletics and educational values.

Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us
by Daniel Koretz.

Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education by David Kirp.

The Shape of the River by William G. Bowen and Derek Bok. Published in 1998, still timely, particularly given the Supreme Court is reconsidering race in admissions this year.

The Privileged Poor by Anthony Abraham Jack. Published in 2019, this book helps you understand the difficulties encountered when you are poor and attending an elite institution.

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. If you are planning to homeschool your child, you may want to use this book as a guide.

- I don’t have time to read blogs on a regular basis, but here are a few for you.

Admissions Cafe - I’ve only read one of their blogs, on the “invisible gorilla,” but it was terrific.
The Choice - The New York Times - while The Choice has been discontinued, the site is still up and contains some terrific pieces for you.
Class Struggle - Jay Mathews column in The Washington Post
College Admission From Application to Acceptance - Robin Mamlet and Christine VanDeVelde’s companion site to their book. They’ve got several interesting areas in here, including a section entitled “5 Questions for the Dean.”
College Counseling Culture - Will Dix
College Mapper - Susanna Cerasuolo
The College Solution - Lynn O’Shaughnessy
Counselor’s Corner - Patrick O’Connor; while these articles are still available, Patrick now writes articles for the Huffington Post. Find his most recent pieces here.
Head Count - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U - I read, when I see it, John Lombardi’s “Reality Check.”
Noel-Levitz blog - may be of interest to enrollment managers.
TheSimpleDollar - this site has a number of very good blogs on financial literacy (caveat emptor: this site is unobtrusively sponsored by credit card companies, but what I particularly like about it is that it includes a disclosure statement to this effect, right up front, when discussing credit cards).

(I don’t use any of these, except iTunesU, but found them with a quick search at the App Store)

ACT Test Bank 36
Adapster (SAT Math)
College Guide - Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits for Military - search for Yellow Ribbon colleges.
College Hunch - search engine app.
College Plan
Fiske Interactive College Guide
Grammarly Keyboard - this links to a Grammarly blog on the app
Kaplan SAT Study Cubes
Peterson’s College Guide
SAT* from Arcadia Prep
SAT Connect
SAT Score Converter - from the College Board
SAT Score Quest
SAT Vocab Challenge
The Official SAT Question of the Day

Also, not seen at the App Store but seen at exhibitor booths at meetings:

Quad to Quad


Find forums for professionals at NACAC, IECA, HECA, and LinkedIn.
College Confidential has a forum for families. Caveat emptor: While these types of forums can be helpful (for students and parents), they can also contain misinformation.

News Feeds, Trade Papers, and Magazines:

Journal of College Admission, from NACAC


ASCD Smartbrief
Education Week
Edudemic.com - particularly useful if your school uses technology in the classroom.
Edutopia.org, from The George Lucas Foundation


Academic Impressions
American Demographics
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Enrollment Management Review, from the College Board
Inside Higher Ed
Postsecondary Education OPPORTUNITY - Tom Mortenson’s public policy analysis site, you’ll find some useful graphics and studies here.
University Business


@CollegeVale - as I save most of my yapping for my classroom, you’ll only receive links to articles in the news from @CollegeVale.

Some Twitter discussion forums you might want to check out: #collegecash, #EMchat, #edchat, #schoolcounselors, #sccrowd, #scchat.