The 10 Best Books for Choosing a College

Ginger Abbot

Mar 25, 2022
best books for choosing a college

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College is on the horizon! Are you gearing up for campus tours and checking out several different universities? Or do you have your colleges narrowed down to a shortlist?

You might be wondering – just what should I be looking for when choosing a college? Maybe it’s love at first sight, or it’s a matter of financial aid. Perhaps it’s a combination of the two. Isn’t there a book for choosing a college?

Before you rush out and buy every book you can with the word “college” in the title, take a moment to review the following recommendations of the 10 best books for choosing a college.

Books on How to Choose a College

1. “Choosing College” by Michael Horn and Bob Moesta

This book ranks number one on the list because it gets to the heart of why you want to go to college. What are your goals? What’s driving you to achieve your dreams?


“Choosing College” provides over 200 student stories about selecting postsecondary paths to help illustrate different options. This book will equip you with the knowledge to understand how to make your college selection based on your career goals.

2. “College Match” by Steven Antonoff

Dr. Steven Antonoff has guided the college search for over 27 years. This book is a fantastic interactive guide. First, you complete a series of questionnaires and worksheets to help you better reflect on your desires and goals for college. Once you have a good understanding of your goals, the book directs you to a list of colleges that fit your needs.

Books on How to Learn About Colleges

1. “The Fiske Guide to Colleges” by Edward Fiske

“The Fiske Guide” is one of the most comprehensive options available. If you’re beginning your college journey or having a difficult time narrowing down your shortlist, this is the book for you.

The guide contains three college indexes – one organized by state and country, one by the average cost of tuition, and one by the rate of debt acquired by students. If you’re looking for a statistic-heavy book, this might be the one for you.

2. “The Princeton Review” by the Princeton Review and Robert Franek

Similar to “The Fiske Guide” in terms of offering a comprehensive picture of schools, “The Princeton Review” ranks colleges on various criteria such as financial aid, academic excellence, campus atmosphere, and more.

The guidebook features many interesting lists, like “Most Politically Active Students” or “Biggest Party Schools.” All helpful information to take into consideration.

Books on How to Apply to College

1. “College Admission Essentials” by Ethan Sawyer

This book is a guide to every aspect of the application process. It contains practical advice with insight from actual college admissions counselors, advisors, and deans of admissions. The guide contains interactive exercises to help you prepare for your college applications and subsequent interviews. Your purchase also grants you access to an extensive database of online resources and content.

2. “Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps” by Alan Gelb

Alan Gelb breaks writing the college admissions essay into manageable sections, making the entire process a whole lot easier and much less intimidating. You’ll learn tips to identify an engaging topic and use writing techniques to reflect your personality and wow the college admissions team. You’ll end up taking this how-to writing book with you to college as a reference for future essays.

Books on How to Pay for College

1. “Paying for College” by the Princeton Review and Kalman Chany

“Paying for College” is printed annually to help you understand the financial responsibilities of paying for college and taking out loans. The book provides line-by-line instructions on how to complete FAFSA paperwork and gives other advice on how best to maximize your financial aid eligibility and strategize accordingly.

2. “The Ultimate Scholarship Book” by Gen Tanabe and Kelly Tanabe

This book is a helpful tool to understand all aspects of funding your education. It provides tons of sources for funds, including grants, content, prizes, and scholarships.

The guide is helpfully divided into parts according to your race and ethnicity and your intended major and college. Finally, “The Ultimate Scholarship Book” provides resources on crafting application essays and timetables to submit all your entries on time.

Books for General Advice on College

1. “Colleges That Change Lives” by Loren Pope

Loren Pope’s theory about college is simple: what you learn in the classroom is much more important than the name of the university you attend. When you read this book, you’ll know more about a liberal arts education and the benefits of having an education that’s more generalized rather than overly focused in one area. You’ll also learn more about 40 liberal arts universities that could change your life if you decided to attend any one of them.

2. “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be” by Frank Bruni

Ultimately your life doesn’t boil down to the decision of where you attend college. By putting so much attention on this singular decision, you can add a lot of unnecessary anxiety to your life.

This is precisely the thesis of Frank Bruni’s book. Instead, Bruni posits, you can make the most of any college experience. This book illustrates how many paths lead to successful careers and lives through stories, statistics, and surveys.

Choose a Book and Prepare for Your College Experience

So, which of these books will you check out – one to help you find the right college match? One to help you find a scholarship at your future school? With any of these books, you’ll be prepared to take on whatever experience college brings your way!


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