Favorite Resources For Parents About Applying To College

As rising seniors spend time this summer writing their personal statements, crafting their application, and refining their college list, parents can sometimes feel a bit sidelined. But parents have an important role to play in empowering their students as they apply to college – and there is no shortage of information about parenting students through the college admissions process, so much that it can sometimes seem overwhelming. I hope this resource list will be a starting point for parents to get valuable information.

Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni.
Former New York Times columnist Frank Bruni shows, through examples of real people, that you do not need a degree from Princeton or Yale to be successful. He argues instead that having a transformative educational experience is the key to future success.

The Truth About College Admissions: A Family Guide to Getting In and Staying Together by Brennan Barnard and Rick Clark.
Rick Clark, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Georgia Tech, and Brennan Barnard, the Director of College Counseling and Outreach at The Derryfield School, advise families about each step of the college application process – from researching colleges, to writing essays and putting together an application. They suggest that parents have frank conversations with their children about the college process – including paying for college – so that all family members are “on the same page.”

Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions by Jeffrey Selingo.
Former Chronicle of Higher Education editor Jeffrey Selingo provides an inside look at the admissions process at three colleges: a selective private university, a flagship public university and an elite liberal arts college. He explains the role of institutional priorities in admissions decisions, and how the admissions process is not just about “merit.”  He encourages family to look beyond “name brand” colleges and universities and broaden their understanding of what constitutes a “good” college.

The College Conversation: A Practical Companion For Parents To Guide Their Children Along The Path To Higher Education by Jacques Steinberg and Eric Furda.
Jacques Steinberg, the former education reporter at the New York Times, and Eric Furda, the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, offer a step-by-step guide to parents about how to help their children through the college admissions process. Organized around 15 different themes, ranging from finding colleges that are good fits to discussing college costs, this book offers practical advice to parents about important conversations to have with their children throughout the college application process.

The Price You Pay for College: An Entirely New Road Map for the Biggest Financial Decision Your Family Will Ever Make by Ron Leiber.
New York Times “Your Money” columnist Ron Leiber provides an overview of how college financial aid grew into the complicated system it is today. He guides parents through the process of setting financial goals, talking to their children about paying for college, and offers tips about how to negotiate with colleges for a more generous financial aid award.

How to Control Your College Costs: The Path to College Affordability by Claire Law.
An adjunct professor at the University of California – Irvine in their Certificate in Educational Consulting program, Law is a nationally recognized expert on financial aid. In this part reference book, part “How To” guide, Law demystifies the intricacies of financial aid so that families can find colleges that are financial fits.

How To Be an Ethical Parent in the College Admissions Process
The Making Caring Common Project is a program out of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Its mission is to help parents and educators raise children who “care about others and the common good.” One of its initiatives concerns “thinking through innovative approaches to the college admissions process” and elevating the role of character in admissions review. In this article, the Making Caring Common Project offers seven ways parents can “promote key ethical, social, and emotional capacities in teens in the college admissions process.”

A “Fit” Over Rankings: Why College Engagement Matters More Than Selectivity
Thee article discusses college rankings and debunks the notion that college selectivity correlates with student learning or subsequent job satisfaction. The article explains what “fit” means and why it matters in a successful college experience.

The Blueprint For Your College Search by Brennan Barnard
The ever-wise Brennan Barnard discusses why it is important for students to begin the college application process with self-reflection, with an effort to understand who they are and what they value. He also explains how the application process is unique to each student. I especially appreciate this article because the first step in my consulting practice is to ask students to reflect on their own values, interests and priorities; this article helps explain to parents why this is a critical step in the college application process.

College Has Evolved. So Should Your Search by Angel Perez
NACAC President (and former VP for Enrollment at Trinity College) Angel Perez debunks the idea that “a university’s network or brand will create student success.” Instead, he encourages students and families to focus fit, with a particular emphasis on the college’s culture.

Why Did I Say “Yes” to Speak Here?|Malcom Gladwell
Malcom Gladwell talks about the positive outcomes for students who do not attend the most selective or elite colleges and universities. He demonstrates that being a “big fish in a small pond” can lead to better job satisfaction and personal happiness.

Lord of the Rankings|Malcom Gladwell
Malcom Gladwell exposes how the algorithm US News uses in its college ranking system is fundamentally flawed, favoring wealthy, predominantly white institutions. He presents a compelling argument for why ranking systems should not factor into students’ decision-making about which colleges they apply to.