During the college search process, students and parents seek advice on college admissions, financial aid, and college counseling. In working closely with my clients, I’ve found that parents and students who have done their own reading are better prepared for this process.

To assist in that effort, I’ve assembled a short list of college admissions resources I consider invaluable. These books, guides, and websites provide basic and important information, and they’re divided into categories for general interest, financial aid, research, reference, and mental health.

I highly recommend that parents and students read Loren Pope’s Colleges That Change Lives, which has served as an inspiration for my own philosophy of college educational consulting, in which my understanding of a student’s identity is integral to the recommendations I make. I also encourage parents to pay attention to references about supporting the mental health of young adults. In my consulting work, I am committed to reducing the stigma associated with mental health challenges, so all students can get the help they need to thrive.

Colleges That Change Lives

Loren Pope

For 30 years, this book has helped parents and students to understand the value of a liberal arts education at some of the country’s smaller, less well known schools. One of my favorite reads.

Educated: A Memoir

Tara Westover

Westover shows resilience and determination as she goes from living off the grid with her family in rural Idaho to entering college and ultimately attending graduate school at Oxford University. The writing is phenomenal and the story is deeply inspirational.

Jeff Selingo

Jeff Selingo is an expert in higher education and his website has a resources section filled with articles he’s written about various topics. Much of it is timely and interesting, as is his consistently illuminating Twitter feed.

The Choice

The Choice is a New York Times blog about all things college—admissions, financial aid, personal stories. Though it no longer runs, it is readable, informative, and full of information that is still pertinent.

Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be

Frank Bruni

A great book in which Bruni, an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, discusses ways that success is measured in our adult lives—hint: not by the college we attend.


This favorite of student sites features on-campus undergrads rating their schools’ academics, social life, dormitories, food, and more.

Big Future

A project of The College Board, this search tool provides specific facts on schools, the college admissions process, financial aid, and degree programs. It’s user friendly and a good resource for initial exploration.

The Fiske Guide

This is the definitive encyclopedia of colleges, also known as the door stop of college search books. For years, Fiske has been an authority providing helpful and detailed narratives of each college. Students who work with me have free access to an online version of the guide.

College Navigator

This research tool created by the National Center for Education Statistics, a government organization, has various search functions that allow users to access data about any college in the country, on topics ranging from majors and costs to athletic teams and campus crime statistics. There’s even a “multiyear tuition calculator.” There are no biases here, just the facts.

College Confidential

College Confidential combines a college research tool with a Reddit-like forum for discussions on countless college topics. There is useful information here, though the conversations skew toward opinion, so don’t take everything at face value.

Purdue University Online Writing Lab

This excellent collection of guides is designed to help students start and complete papers, from initial brainstorming to polishing off the bibliography. The site includes tips on grammar, punctuation style, and research citations. Invaluable.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy’s free online learning platform allows students to supplement their knowledge of subjects, study new topics, or get tutorials on specific courses. Students can learn math, grammar, even computer programming. The organization also offers a full range of SAT and ACT preparation.

The College Solution

Lynn O’Shaughnessy

O’Shaughnessy’s thoughtful blog offers basic knowledge about financial aid along with practical advice and tips.


FAFSA is the official US Department of Education site every parent needs to use for filling out financial aid forms.


Fastweb allows students to search for scholarships, using its database of over a million scholarships. It’s an excellent one-stop shop for finding award information.

Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety

John Duffy

Duffy’s thoughtful and highly readable overview of what it means to be a 21st century teenager includes discussions about anxiety and depression and how to help your child through such challenges.

The Jed Foundation

Dedicated to preventing teen and young adult suicide, The Jed Foundation is a non-profit organization with the mission to protect the emotional health of our young adults.

How To Raise an Adult

Julie Lythcott-Haims

In her acclaimed book, Lythcott-Haims examines the damage caused by helicopter parenting in the world outside of the home.

Active Minds

This nonprofit organization supports mental health awareness and education for young adults. Through its campus chapters and student advocates at most colleges, Active Minds provides a safe space for students to talk about mental health.

“It’s been a while since I’ve written to you, and I wanted to let you know that I’ll be attending Colorado College next year!! Thank you so much for all the help you gave me. I couldn’t have done it without you. I’m beyond excited after realizing that it’s the type of school where I will thrive best.” —M.D.

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