Best Book on College Preparation/Application for Parents?

<p>Hi, </p>

<p>I'm wondering what you parents would recommend as a useful book about the college application process, preparing for college, or choosing colleges for parents. What's your favorite title? What did you like about it? </p>

<p>Thanks for all the ideas you have.</p>

<p>Here's a link to the previous thread about this, which has a link to the old forum with a lot of good books. Enjoy</p>

<p><a href="http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/showthread.php?t=397&highlight=college+books+admissions%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/showthread.php?t=397&highlight=college+books+admissions&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>My older daughter was not reaching for the Ivies/elite LACs, so the most useful books for me included "Colleges that Change Lives" and "Looking Beyond the Ivy League," by Loren Pope. I also like "Harvard Schmarvard" and "Panicked Parents' Guide." Sorry - can't remember authors' names right now.</p>

<p>My younger daughter is a freshman in HS, and yes, I am planning ahead and keeping these books accessible!</p>

<p>Hmm... I have not read any of these books, so cannot comment on their usefulness, but here are some thoughts.</p>

<p>College preparation: we found out, with our older S, that our school's idea of preparing for college--in the junior year--was far too late. Having been educated outside the US, we had no idea what CP (college preparatory) meant, as opposed to Honors, etc... Luckily, our S was put in honors classes, so he was on track. Nor did we understand that what high school require for graduation and what colleges deem to be adequate preparation are rather different things (and I did not know then about CC!)
Preparing for college should indeed start in the freshman year with the selection of courses. They should prepare the student to take the most rigorous courses in the junior and senior year (or even earlier, if appropriate). As they finish the highest level of courses in a particular field, students should take the SAT II at the end of that year, when materials are still fresh in their mind and take AP exams as appropriate.
Most top colleges have fairly similar recommendations for high school curriculum. Take a look and plan accordingly.
Financial considerations: there are some threads in the old CC about saving for college, whether in the parents'names or in the child's name. Also look up threads regarding merit aid and scholarships.
College selection: In my opinion, visits should start two years before the student is ready to apply, i.e., in the sophomore year. This is a relative stress-free year compared to junior year and of course senior year. These visits should be quite low-key, to give the student a very general sense of different types of schools.<br>
As for the application process, many of the books mentioned above probably have good step-by-step explanations. I believe the College Board website also has useful information.
An interesting insider's look at the college admission process is Jacques Steinberg's The Gatekeepers about the selection of the class of '04 at Wesleyan. Several years ago, before the new SAT was broached, PBS ran a program on the SAT and its use at Berkeley. It think the title was "Secrets of the SAT." It followed some applicants to Berkeley, discussed their GPAS and their scores and published the text of their essays, with comments from adcoms. That would be a good supplement to the Steinberg book.</p>

<p>Our HS mails a booklet to all 8th grade parents which includes graduation requirements and about 8 suggested curricula for the 4 years their students will be attending HS. Among the suggested curricula are those geared for very competetive colleges, general college prep curricula, science/engineering college prep, vocational career track among others.</p>

<p>We didn't feel that any books were necessary. We just used common sense and attended the info sessions offered by the Guidance Office every year. Every other parent I knew did the same. After taking the PSAT as a sophomore, our son began being inundated with college brochures which provided more information. And our son got additional info at the various college web sites and the USNews web site which he subscribed to junior year. I think that cost about $10.</p>

<p>The basic criteria our son used to select the final colleges on his list were: a) the availability of merit scholarships; b) admissions requirements(he didn't want to take any SAT 2's or 3rd year Spanish); c) admission statistics(he figured that he would need to be in at least the top 20% to be in the running for a decent merit scholarship); d) academic programs in areas he was interested in; and e) miscellaneous college characteristics such as size, location, and intangibles.</p>

<p>It really seemed to be quite a simple process to us.</p>

<p>I definitely second Marite's mention of The Gatekeepers. It reads like a novel (in fact, it is mistakenly filed in the fiction section at my local Barnes & Noble). It gives a pretty good look at how competitive the admissions are at the selective schools--and how much factors other than grades and test scores can matter. I had NO idea how competitive the landscape was until I read the book. It is an eye-opener for any parent who hasn't been involved in college admissions for a while (like since they went to college in the dark ages).</p>

<p>I found one of the Greenes' Guides--Making It into a Top College--useful. The book talks about the 5 P's:</p>

<p>strong PROGRAM;
good PERFORMANCE;
good test PREPARATION;
PASSIONATE commitment to a few key ECs;
focus on PRESENTATION (putting all of the above together into a good application).</p>

<p>"Our HS mails a booklet to all 8th grade parents which includes graduation requirements and about 8 suggested curricula for the 4 years their students will be attending HS. Among the suggested curricula are those geared for very competetive colleges, general college prep curricula, science/engineering college prep, vocational career track among others."</p>

<p>I wish they would send it to our HS guidance office....</p>

<p>I agree with the recommendations for The Gatekeepers. For a detailed look into the application process at top schools, I really like Michele Hernandez' "A is for Admission."</p>

<p>College Admissions Mystique by Bill Mayher. You'll still need the Giant Book of Colleges, but this one will actually make you feel good.</p>

<p>"How to Get Into the Top Colleges" by Richard Montauk and "A is for Admission" by Michelle Hernandez. These two do most everything.</p>

<p>and as a result feel compelled to copy my suggestions from the archived thread referenced above. One additional observation I would make is that some of the most interesting books (Gatekeepers, the Rachel Toor book whose title escapes me) are not the most useful.</p>

<p>Anyway, my picks are:</p>

<p>General Overview - The College Admissions Mystique (Mayher) </p>

<p>Individual College Info - Fiske Guide and Princeton Review Best 3XX Colleges </p>

<p>Admission Strategies - What it Really Takes to Get into the Ivy Leagues (Hughes) and Acing the College Application (Hernandez) - "Acing" is more useful than her other title, A is for Admission </p>

<p>Application Essays - College Admission Essays for Dummies (Woods) - adults appreciate the Harry Bauld book, but I think students will be more engaged by Woods. </p>

<p>One More? - Colleges that Change Lives (Pope) - this book is a good counterbalance to the Hughes and Hernandez books and excellent for students who are not at the top of the SAT/GPA range.</p>

<p>There's another book with an insider's view, this one written by a woman who worked in Duke admissions office. Does anyone know the name?</p>

<p>Admissions Confidential </p>

<p>by Rachel Toor (2001, St. MartinÂ’s)</p>

<p>Book written by someone who worked in Duke admissions</p>

<p>"On Writing the College Application Essay" by Harry Bould. </p>

<p>Awesome and fun to read guide to essay writing.</p>

<p>"Rock Hard Apps" (can't remember the author) is an excellent guide to completing compelling applications.</p>

<p>Just want to echo the recommendation for What it Really Takes to Get into the Ivy League and Other Highly Selective Colleges, by Chuck Hughes, a former Harvard adcom. You will find very specific information in that book that I haven't seen elsewhere. </p>

<p>Also want to put in a sincere plug for America's Elite Colleges, published by the Princeton Review and written by CC's own Dave Berry and David Hawsey. The section in which they zero in on writing the actual application was the most detailed and helpful I have seen in any book. </p>

<p>And like it or not, you probably need to take a look at The Early Admissions game by Avery et al. Once you read it, however, you will almost certainly want your son or daughter to apply early if the focus is on an elite school.</p>

<p>Err... When I first came on CC, I listened to everyone here and I bought both Rock Hard Apps and A is for Admission.</p>

<p>Rock Hard Apps, is completely useless. The only thing I learnt from there is how to write a brag-sheet. Which I probably could have figured out myself. It's pretty much a running commentary on how great her company is... and she ranks people so arbitrarily that it makes no sense. She doesn't tell you what "ivywise" scores you need to go to a top school... nor does she even tell you how to calculate your "ivywise" score. The book is complete crock. I found the revisions to the essays, really bad.</p>

<p>A is for Admission is only slightly better. It's one of those books that gives you an insiders perspective sure... but what does it really tell you. The essay advice she gives is pretty mundane... "write about a significant event"... The whole AI thing does not even apply anymore to most schools, so half the book is already a POS. </p>

<p>The best advice is not to buy any college advice books. Or just borrow them from friends or the library. Those two books particularly are not a good investment. </p>

<p>College Applicant</p>

<p>Princeton Review's Best 351 Colleges</p>

<p>Though C parents deride the negative reviews, I haven't met a student who doesn't think the descriptions are spot on. Caution: Applicant's SAT should be in top 25% of SAT averages to call it a 'match'.</p>

<p>Princeton Review SAT prep classes. High SAT scores make a difference. The classes or tutors are worth the money.</p>

<p>10 Real SAT's. The SAT changed this year, so hopefully book will be updated.</p>

<p>College Confidential. Best Interactive Insider Guide, bar none.</p>

<p>I too found the Princeton Review book pretty spot on (though I thought they were too charitable toward both quality of life and academic quality at some of the Ivies.) Now, of course, I can't remember much of what they say about any of them! (They did help us spot Scripps as a potential "admissions value".)</p>

<p>For understanding admissions as a qualitative, wholistic process, definitely "The Gatekeepers". This book really, really helps to "think like an adcom", which is the key to writing an application that appeals to an adcom. </p>

<p>For college selection, my vote is the Fiske Guide to Colleges. Read the capsule descriptions slowly. They are charged with meaning.</p>

<p>For essays, Harry Baud's book. However, my caveat would be that the book is a great primer on writing college essays, but the examples of good essays are rather useless IMO. None of the books use "good little essays" as their examples. I am inclinced to think that "good little essays" are the best way to go for most applicants. I have a personal dislike for heart-wrenching sob stories or essays that read like an episode of Dawson's Creek, chock-full of teen angst.</p>