The 14 Best Books for College Admissions and How to Pay for College (2024)

Navigating the college admissions process and finding affordable schools for your family is a complicated, consequential, and stressful project. These 14 books are the best guides we have found to help you every step of the way.

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Best college admissions books

1. Fiske Guide to Colleges (2025)

Fiske Guide to Colleges has been rating and reporting on post-high school education for 41 years. When you don’t know where to start, start here. Fully updated each year, families will find descriptions on over 300 colleges and universities. Plus there are these incredibly useful sections:

  • A self-quiz to help teens understand what they are really looking for in a college
  • Lists of strong programs and popular majors at each college
  • “Overlap” listings to help students expand your options
  • Indexes that break down schools by state, price, and average debt
  • Exclusive academic, social, and quality-of-life ratings
  • All the basics, including financial aid stats and acceptance rates
  • Plus a special section highlighting the 20 public and private Best Buy schools―colleges that provide the best educational value

2. Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions (2020) by Jeff Selingo

who gets in and why

Bestselling author and education journalist Jeff Selingo spent months embedded in the college admissions departments of three different universities. He gained a true insider’s view of what happens when decisions are made about the students to admit and those to deny.

This insightful book guides families on helping their teens discover fit on every level.

3. The Price You Pay for College: An Entirely New Roadmap for the Biggest Financial Decision Your Family Will Ever Make (2022) by Ron Lieber

price you pay for college

New York Times “Your Money” columnist and bestselling author Ron Lieber offers families an insider’s look at the factors that go into the myriad ways colleges charge families for higher education. With this New York Times bestseller, he provides readers with a roadmap to understand merit and financial aid better and make sensible choices for finding affordable schools for their teens.

4. The Truth about College Admission: A Family Guide to Getting In and Staying Together (2023) by Rick Clark and Brennan Barnard

Rick Clark, Assistant Vice Provost and Executive Director of Undergraduate Admission at Georgia Tech, has written this excellent guide, offering families a chance to learn how admissions officers think about the college application process. Written with co-author Brennan Barnard, Director of College Counseling and Outreach at the Kahn School, this is THE admission guidebook for families that will take them through the entire college admissions process. Available now in a recently-issued second edition.

5. The Truth About College Admission Workbook: A Family Organizer for Your College Search (2021) by Rick Clark and Brennan Barnard

Truth about college admissions workbook

Rick and Brennan created a workbook as a companion to their bestselling book to help families through the college admissions search. With activities and exercises for students, this workbook will help teens every step of the way.

6. The College Conversation: A Practical Companion for Parents to Guide Their Children Along the Path to Higher Education (2021) by Eric J. Furda and Jacques Steinberg

college conversation

Eric J.Furda, former Dean of Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, and bestselling author Jacques Steinberg guide parents about the crucial conversations they must have with their college-bound teens. It is organized into five sections: the Discovery Phase, the Search, the Application, the Decisions, and the Transition to College.

This is a book that parents can keep on their nightstand from their teen’s junior year of high school through their freshman year of college, knowing that the advice is from some of the most knowledgeable and thoughtful professionals in higher education.

7. The Black Family’s Guide to College Admission: A Conversation About Parenting, Education, and Race, Second Edition by Timothy L. Fields and Shereem Herndon-Brown (2024)

Timothy L. Fields, Senior Associate Dean of Admission at Emory University, and Shereem Herndon-Brown, founder of Strategic Admissions Advice, are both admissions professionals and parents. Their book discusses concerns for Black families in the college admissions process and, in the soon-to-be released second edition, reviews recent Supreme Court decisions about race-conscious admission and their likely impact on Black applicants.

8. Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges (2012) by Loren Pope (Author) and revised by Hilary Masell Oswald (Editor)

Best college admissions books

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 games and keg parties and need a comprehensive and regionally targeted list of options and their academic offerings, don’t let this one get by.

9. Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania (2016) by Frank Bruni

Best college admissions books

This New York Times bestselling book is your first defense against the overly competitive and anxiety-laden process. Reassuringly, award-winning journalist Bruni defends the fact that the college your teen ends up attending is anything but the sole determining factor in what kind of successful future they will have.

Download the Grown and Flown College Admissions Timeline (free) that will take you and your teen from ninth grade through acceptance.

College timeline download preview

10. Choosing College: How to Make Better Learning Decisions Throughout Your Life (2019) by Michael B. Horn and Bob Moesta

college admissions book

Choosing a college is the most complicated process in our teens’ lives and is easily one of the most perplexing and expensive for parents. Authors Horn and Moesta created a research-based approach to help families better understand what’s motivating their students to attend secondary education and how to find the best match that includes not only traditional 4-year colleges but also community colleges, vocational training, and more.

11. College Match: A Blueprint for Choosing the Best School for You (2022) by Dr. Steven R. Antonoff

college match 2022

Recently updated, College Match has worksheets to help students begin the narrowing down process of college choices; this title also enables you to find what college guidebook is correct for you.

12. Valedictorians at the Gate: Standing Out, Getting In, and Staying Sane While Applying to College (2022) by Becky Munsterer Sabky

valedictorians at the gate  

Former Dartmouth College admissions director Becky Munsterer Sabky pulls back the curtain to show families how admissions decisions are made and gives empowering advice and information to teens about the process.

13. Paying for College, 2024 Edition: Everything You Need to Maximize Financial Aid and Afford College (Princeton Review)

Including the latest FAFSA forms, guidelines, and help for the 2023-2024 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.”

14. The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2025: Billions of Dollars in Scholarships, Grants and Prizes  by Gen and Kelly Tanabe

Jam-packed full of all the info you will need to apply for each scholarship entry, this is your one-stop-shop for all things scholarship. It includes information on “billions of dollars in scholarships, grants, and prizes.” With the upcoming FAFSA changes, having a guidebook like this one to help families anticipate how their college funding might be impacted has never been more important.

Are you looking for advice from experts in college admissions? Do you want to learn more about colleges that offer generous merit aid? Subscribe to College Admissions: Grown and Flown  with a three week FREE trial to be able to help your teen with their admissions process. Attend weekly live sessions, ask your questions and get answers in real-time from admissions and financial aid experts. 

More to Read:

Best College Admissions Blogs

About Lisa Endlich Heffernan

Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan is the co-founder of Grown and Flown, the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author.
She started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and is co-author of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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