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Best Book On How To Write A College Essay

Weighted GPAs. Unweighted GPAs. AP scores. Dual Enrollment grades. Essays. Recommendation letters. More essays. SAT scores. ACT scores. PSAT scores. Composite scores. Writing Scores. Volunteer requirements. FAFSA. And that’s all before your child’s actual senior year of high school!

Overwhelmed yet? I bet you are! But don’t fret, because there are numerous resources available to help you navigate the college application process, potentially making it a little less stressful and a lot more enjoyable. Because seeing all the work you’ve done raising a college bound kid finally come to fruition doesn’t have to be something you groan through.

Rather, it can be a process you celebrate through. These college admissions books, and other titles that will help you pay for college, have all the info you may need to help get that celebration started.

Note: We receive compensation from purchases made through some of the links on this page which helps us to pay our writers –

Best College Admissions Books

Fiske Guide to Colleges 2018
by Edward B.Fiske

The Holy Bible of college rundowns, the Fiske guide has been rating and reporting on all things post high school education for over 30 years. When you don’t know where to start, start here.


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

Exceptionally researched and written, pick up this title if you’re looking to find the diamond in the rough of colleges. If you’re seeking more than football game and keg parties, and need a comprehensive and regionally targeted list of options and their academic offerings, don’t let this one get by you.

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

This book is your first defense against the overly competitive and anxiety laden process of trying to (and maybe failing) of getting into the college you think you’re supposed to be at. Reassuringly, Bruni defends the fact that what college your child ends up attending is anything but the sole determining factor in what kind of successful future they will have.

College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step
by Robin Mamle and Christine Van De Velde

With the help of 50 college admission deans, this is a definitive resource on the entire process from beginning to dorm move in day. Practical and very applicable advice, and a great one to have at your disposable to fill in the holes left by your high school guidance counselor. And the fact it uses well-timed humor at parts is a much appreciated bonus.

College Match: A Blueprint for Choosing the Best School for You, 12th Edition
by Dr. Steven R. Antonoff

If Tinder wrote a book on finding your perfect college match, this would be it. Updated, revised and full of worksheets to help students begin the narrowing down process of college choices, this title also helps you find what college guidebook is right for you.

Countdown to College: 21 ‘To Do’ Lists for High School
by Valerie Pierce

The only checklist title out there, and one that covers your to-dos starting freshman year through senior year, Countdown is a comprehensive resource to ensure you have dotted all you “i’s” and crossed your “t’s,” and don’t miss a single deadline.

B+ Grades, A+ College Application: How to Present Your Strongest Self, Write a Standout Admissions Essay, and Get Into the Perfect School for You
by Joie Jager-Hyman

Country to popular belief, you don’t need 10 AP classes, score in the 95% percentile on the SAT, and have a 5.0 GPA to get into college these days. B and C students have just as many great college options as valedictorians, and you can learn all about them in this guide written by a former Dartmouth admission officer. If you need help turning an average impression into a stellar one for college admissions, this book is for you.

On Writing the College Application Essay, 25th Anniversary Edition: The Key to Acceptance at the College of Your Choice
by Harry Bauld

Written by a former admission officer at Brown and Columbia, add this book on college admissions to your must read if you’ve got several essays to write and need some help taking the intimidation factor out of the college admissions essay equation.

How to Pay for College Books

Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents
by Zac Bissonnette

Here’s undeniable proof that radiating college debt free can be done. With smart and frugal tips and strategies on paying for college yourself, not bankrupting your parents, and still being able to graduate from a high quality university, Bissonnette wrote this best seller while still in college. Now that’s saying something.

Paying for College Without Going Broke, 2018 Edition: How to Pay Less for College (College Admissions Guides)

by Princeton Review, Kalman Chany

Including the latest FAFSA forms, guidelines, and help for the 2018-2019 year, Newsday proclaimed this to be a “first rate guide to the financial aid maze,” and covers everything you think you’re missing when it comes to funding college.”

The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2018: Billions of Dollars in Scholarships, Grants and Prizes

by Gen Tanabe and Kelly Tunable

At a whopping 850 +pages and subdivided into more categories than you thought you needed, this is your go to start book when seeking college funding other than student loans. Jam pack full of all the info you will need to apply for each of the entries, this is your one stop shop for all things scholarship.

Parenting a College-Bound Kid

Grown and Flown: From 11th Grade Stress to College Success
by Lisa Heffernan and Mary Dell Harrington

Available in Kindle format only, this title is authored by the beloved duo of been there done thatmothers from Grown and Flown, a website dedicated solely to parenting issues raising teenagers and college kids. Their honesty and frankness is refreshing, and you will find encouragement and thoughtfulness to help you through what can often be a the difficult process of preparing your child to head to college.

NEW! All Grown and Flown picks for grad gifts, birthday gifts and dorm shopping in one place! 


The Best Books To Give Your College Student

What This Mom Learned the Hard Way About College Applications

Soiling the Nest: What’s Good About Teens Being Bad

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. She is on Facebook at 4BoysMother and on twitter at @melissarunsaway.

Note: We receive a small amount of compensation from purchases made through these Amazon links.




Paperback – 299 pages; Mentor Books

100 Successful College Application Essays has been around for a while. On the cover, under the two authors’ names is the additional phrase “With Members of the Staff of The Harvard Independent.” There’s that name again. I have to wonder if Mentor Books’ marketing department would have included that extra byline had those “members” been associated with The Bowling Green Independent. I guess we’ll never know.

I fancy myself as something of a connoisseur of application essays, having even written about them at great length in America’s Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer’s Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools (Princeton Review-Random House 2001). In light of that, I have to say that I wasn’t all that impressed with the “successful” essays presented in this book. Granted, some of the writers got into very prestigious colleges and the essays’ critical commentaries come from one college admissions director and a large group of prep school counselors and admissions staffers. I would have preferred the balance of reviewers to be more heavily weighted toward college admissions people, but that’s just me.

In my view, this collection of essays suffers in comparison to the examples proffered by Harry Bauld in his legendary On Writing the College Application Essay (Barnes and Noble Books, 1987). Bauld gives us the good and the bad. We can profit by seeing what and how not to write. Here, the authors’ approach is to guide by “successful” example only, a tact that can be risky. Why? Well, we don’t get to see some of the other supporting aspects of these writers’ applications. Obviously, they didn’t all get into their respective colleges on the weight of their essays.

Bauld, by comparison, shows us how even borderline candidates can strongly bolster their admission chances by carefully examining their lives and writing about seemingly innocuous issues. For example, Bauld rhapsodizes on the greatness of one student’s lead: “I do some of my best thinking in the bathroom.” Sheer poetry.

Another curious aspect of this book about “successful” essays is that some of the commentaries are less than laudatory. For example, one commentator notes about a Princetonian’s essay: “This essay is a nice one which [sic] unfortunately falls a little short. The topic is fun to read about, but the ending leaves a great deal to be desired. I am left with-what was the subject? Didn’t he have another paragraph?”

Hmm. Sounds like this applicant may have had some other things going for him. I have to wonder why the authors would have included an essay that elicited such a less-than-flattering comment from its reviewer.

To be fair, there are some good, even unique essays here with some appropriate critical analyses. However, this reviewer recommends that if you’re looking for the quickest and most fun way to get from Point A, where your writing is now, to Point B, producing a successful college application essay, get Bauld. To paraphrase Churchill, with Bauld, never has so much writing wisdom been packed into so few pages containing such enjoyment.

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