February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The College Maze | From Application to Admission (And Beyond)

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.


By Alicia Eames

For the college-bound the pressure is on; there are essays to write, tests to ace, and applications to complete. With guides galore available to teens, this round-up offers a sampling of recent titles. Students (and their parents) will find useful information on the college-search and admission process, minus the hype. And, for those who have sealed the deal, there’s practical advice for “surviving and thriving” in class and on campus, guidance for teens with special needs, and some constructive assessments to aid “undeclared” applicants choose a field of study.

The Application Process

DOWHAN, Adrienne, Chris Dowhan & Dan Kaufman. 3rd ed. Essays That Will Get You Into College. Barron’s. 2009.
While it might seem slightly incongruous that the authors “are all part of an Internet-based company called IvyEssays,” a commercial writing and editing service, their step-by-step guide to penning successful college entrance essays cannot be discounted. Particularly useful is a section of 25 essays written by real students with comments by admissions officers.

HEWITT, Doug & Robin Hewitt. Get Into College in 3 Months or Less. Prufrock Press. 2011.
Written by a husband-and-wife team with personal experience steering their own teens through the college admission process, this slim but information-packed guide completely covers the basics while urging readers along with a cheerful can-do attitude. While geared to teens who’ve arrived at the college decision late in the game, all academia-bound students will find it useful.

MAMLET, Robin & Christine Vandevelde. College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step. Three Rivers Press. 2011.
Observations from Deans of Admissions, from Sarah Lawrence to the University of California, are sprinkled throughout this comprehensive guide, which stretches from “Becoming College-Bound” to making the choice once the acceptance letters arrive. Appendices include a high school timeline, further print and online resources, and worksheets (downloadable at www.collegeadmissionbook.com where additional information is freely available).

Profiles of American Colleges 2013. 30th ed. Barron’s. 2012.
While daunting in heft, students beginning the search for a four-year college will appreciate this well-known handbook for its thorough introduction to “more than 1650” schools. Highlights include an easy-to-follow “Step-by-Step Guide to College Acceptance,” an “Index of College Majors,” and an alphabetical arrangement by state. An online version is available with purchase.

SHAEVITZ, Marjorie Hansen. Admission Possible: The “Dare To Be Yourself” Guide for Getting into the Best Colleges for You. Sourcebooks. 2012.
Chock-full of user-friendly and student-centered advice on extracurricular activities, admission essays, letters of recommendation, test taking, and everything else students and parents need to know about the admissions process, this is the guide a motivated high school freshman will want to own. Fortunately, the information is available to all students at no charge at admissionpossible.com.

Surviving and Thriving

COHEN, Harlan. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College. 4th ed. Sourcebooks. 2011.
Speaking with a just-right mix of humor and authority, Cohen introduces newbie college students to the nitty-gritty of life on campus with advice on dealing with roommates (naked and otherwise), managing finances, going to (and missing) class, navigating the pitfalls of sex and drugs, and other important topics. Parents will want to have the companion volume The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only (2012) on hand, while those planning freshman orientation might want to consider adding The Naked Roommate’s First Year Survival Workbook: The Ultimate Tools for a College Experience with More Fun, Less Stress, and Top Success (2012) to their list of resources.

FEAVER, Peter, Sue Wasiolek & Anne Crossman. Getting the Best Out of College: Insider Advice for Success from a Professor, a Dean, and a Recent Grad. rev & updated. Ten Speed Press. 2012.
The introduction shares “a fundamental secret: it matters less where students choose to go than what they choose to do once they get there.” From there, the authors (all hail from Duke University) reveal the essential ins and outs of a meaningful college experience, from dorm life to relationships with parents to study abroad while recognizing education as a privilege that isn’t guaranteed to all.

GARTON, Christie. U Chic: The College Girl’s Guide to Everything. updated 2nd ed. Sourcebooks. 2011.
The “Everything” in this title embraces choosing a major and deciding upon grad school, but the decided emphasis is on all things social, including Facebook etiquette, online dating, partying, hooking-up, sororities, keeping fit, and staying safe. This friendly, big-sister-toned advice is packaged with a bright pink cover.

JACOBS, Lynn F. & Jeremy S. Hyman. The Secrets of College Success: Over 600 Tips & Tricks Revealed. (Professors’ Guide Series). Jossey-Bass. 2010.
Two college professors dispense practical, insider advice in easy-to-digest lists, such as “6 Things You Didn’t Know About Grading (but Really Should),” “10 Tips for Writing the Perfect Paper,” and “Top 10 Myths About Study Abroad.” Other topics include selecting courses, knowing when to ask for help, and building rapport with professors.

QUARATIELLO, Arlene R. with Jane Devine. The College Student’s Research Companion: Finding, Evaluating, and Citing the Resources You Need to Succeed. 5th ed. Neal-Schuman. 2011.
A handy tool for students who need to brush up on key information-literacy skills, such as using an online catalog, searching the Web, plumbing subscription databases, and evaluating sources, this introduction also takes readers through the basics of writing a research paper. Practice exercises (with answers) reinforce the lessons. Links to the myriad websites referenced by the authors can be found at www.neal-schuman.com/research.

SCOTT, Sheridan, Nancy Allen & Anya Settle. Now You Tell Me! 12 College Students Give the Best Advice They Never Got. Arundel Publishing. 2012.
Young men and women from a wide range of academic settings share their personal experiences and offer guidance on “College Learning” and “College Life,” including choosing schools and majors, building friendships, managing time, and seizing new opportunities. Videos and additional material are available at www.nowyoutellmebooks.com/college.

Advice for Students with Special Needs

QUINN, Patricia O. AD/HD and the College Student: The Everything Guide to Your Most Urgent Questions. Magination Press/APA. 2012.
Written in a question-and-answer format by a pediatrician with over 30 years experience (and who has AD/HD), this is a go-to-book for students with the disorder as they navigate college life. The author tackles real-life topics, including parents, stress, health, medication, academics, Facebook, roommates, romance, and alcohol, as she offers no-nonsense, caring advice in easy-to-manage portions.

QUINN, Patricia O. & Theresa E. Laurie Maitland. On Your Own: A College Readiness Guide for Teens with ADHD/LD. Magination Press/APA. 2011.
Designed to help individuals “create a personalized college readiness plan,” this step-by-step, interactive handbook encourages students to assess their self-determination, daily living, and academic skills through checklists and worksheets while forming an action plan for completing goals. Down-to-earth tips for improving skills along with suggested books and websites encourage success.

SIMPSON, Cynthia G. & Vicky G. Spencer. College Success for Students with Learning Disabilities: Strategies and Tips to Make the Most of Your College Experience. Prufrock Press. 2009.
In order for IEPs to reflect the necessary goals, college planning for students with learning disabilities ought to begin in eighth grade. In a conversational tone, interspersed with lists of tips, tables, and worksheets, the authors guide students (and parents and counselors) through practical considerations while emphasizing that student self-advocacy is essential. Boxes labeled “Learning to Ask the Right Questions” with need-to-know items are especially useful.

BROWN, Jane Thierfeld et al. The Parent’s Guide to College for Students on the Autism Spectrum. AAPC Publishing. 2012.

While transitioning to college life is rarely easy, students on the autism spectrum face unique challenges that this comprehensive guidebook addresses, such as deciding where to apply, legal accommodations for disabled students, and academic and social issues. The authors imbue this book with a personal touch by including brief descriptions of situations that the students they’ve worked with have encountered (a student has a research paper due but her roommates are blasting loud music, a freshman wants to socialize but finds the sensory overload of the dining overwhelming). Though billed as a “Parent’s Guide,” charts and tables such as “New Student Resource Guide” and the “20-Question Stress Test” make this particularly useful to the college-bound as well.

TIEDEMANN, Chris Wise. College Success for Students with Physical Disabilities. Prufrock Press. 2012.
As the mother of a son with cerebral palsy and founder of the website, Disability Friendly Colleges, the author offers hard-won insight into planning for college, what to expect, finding a school, preparing for college life, academic achievement, and personal concerns and services in six well-organized chapters, each of which incorporates the first-hand experiences of four students with different disabilities.

Choosing a Major

LIPTAK, John J.. College Major Quizzes: 12 Easy Tests to Discover Which Programs Are Best. JIST. 2011.
Undecided high school and college students can benefit from self-assessments that examine a student’s interests and skills, favorite subjects, personality traits, and leisure pursuits to identify personally satisfying academic programs. Liptak draws on the 16 U.S. Department of Education career clusters, from “Agriculture and Natural Resources” to “Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics,” and each is described in an appendix.

SHATKIN, Laurence. Panicked Student’s Guide to Choosing a College Major: How to Confidently Pick Your Ideal Path. JIST. 2011.
Using the Holland Types personality theory and a list of 28 skills gleaned from the U.S. Department of Labor’s employment information website O*NET Online, Shatkin guides readers through a process of selecting a college major based on personality traits, defined skills, and preferred high school courses. Additionally, he presents profiles of 120 majors with related career possibilities.

Curriculum Connections

This article was featured in our free Curriculum Connections enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you every month.

Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA

Do you want to ensure that your library’s collections are diverse, equitable, inclusive, and well-read?

Do you want to become a more culturally literate librarian and a more effective advocate for your community?

We've developed a foundational online course—with live sessions on February 28 & March 14—that will explore key concepts essential to cultivating and promoting inclusive and equitable collections.
Building Literacy-Rich Communities
Hosted by Library Journal and School Library JournalStronger Together is a national gathering of thought leaders and innovators from across the country who will share where and how partnerships between school districts and public libraries are having success. Join us May 10–12 at the University of Nebraska Omaha, as we explore the impact these collaborations are having on the institutions, communities, and kids they serve.


  1. What seriously inspired u to post “The College Maze | From
    Application to Admission (And Beyond) | School Library Journal”?
    I personallydefinitely loved the blog post! Thanks for your time