The Truth about College Admission: A Family Guide to Getting In and Staying Together

By Brennan Barnard and Rick Clark

A high school counselor and a college admission director help families on the path to a positive college search and admission experience.

Is your family just starting to think about visiting colleges? Maybe you are in the throes of the experience, feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. Did we miss a deadline? Should we be looking in-state or out-of-state, big school or small school? And what is a “FAFSA” anyway?

The Truth about College Admission is the easy-to-follow, comprehensive, go-to guide for families. The expert authors—with inside knowledge from both the high school and university sides of the experience—provide critical advice, thoughtful strategies, helpful direction, and invaluable reassurance during the long and often bewildering college admission journey. From searching for colleges and creating a list of favorites to crafting an application, learning what schools are looking for academically and outside the classroom, and getting insight into how colleges decide who to accept, this book covers every important step. Helpful sections like “Try This,” “Talk about This,” and “Check In” show your family how to have open and balanced conversations to keep everyone on the same page, feeling less stressed, and actually enjoying the adventure together.

The Truth about College Admission is the practical and inspiring guidebook your family needs, an essential companion along the path to college acceptance.

Purchase it here on Amazon or through Johns Hopkins Press


“In a time when the college admission process seems fraught with mystery, anxiety, and competitiveness, this book achieves something most college guides don’t: it balances the why with the how. The authors guide students and families through the deeper questions of why they want to go to college and what they hope to achieve. They then demystify the process and provide tactical and solutions-driven support for a student’s journey to higher education. Barnard and Clark do an excellent job of helping students negotiate the emotional aspects of college admission as well as the practical. If you are looking for a book to help you navigate the admission process with passion and purpose, this is the one.”

— Angel B. Pérez, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success, Trinity College

“Brennan Barnard and Rick Clark make a stressful decision more sane, understandable, and educationally useful. This book is needed because misinformation and a cacophony of noise about college admission are hurting students.”

— Jerome A. Lucido, Executive Director, University of Southern California Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice

“This approachable book, which includes a great diversity of professionals who provide observations and advice, feels like a real, extended conversation. Barnard and Clark have crafted a terrific collaboration from both sides of the admission desk. On an all-too-crowded bookshelf of ‘how-to’ manuals for college admission, this book offers a much-needed step-by-step journey to a successful outcome for students and their families.”

— William T. Conley, Vice President for Enrollment Management, Bucknell University

“The college admission ritual can be a joyful opportunity for reflection and discovery. With insight, empathy, and wit, Barnard and Clark empower families to tune out the noise, own the journey, and focus on what really matters in a lived college experience.”

— Mark Moody, Director of College Counseling, Shanghai American School, Puxi Campus

“A MUST-read for students applying to college and their parents! Come along and share the authors’ meaningful personal and professional stories, which will help you think through the entire process, including why you are doing what you are doing and how to make it all less stressful. I recommend this book highly to the students and families with whom I work.”

— Nancy Beane, Associate Director of College Counseling, Westminster

“At a time when the college search is too often defined as an anxious process by frazzled parents and students, Barnard and Clark come along with an invaluable, clear-headed guide for navigating the search and finding the right fit. This is a practical roadmap filled with tactical tips from two insiders that should be on the shelf of every high-school counselor; it is a must-read for parents and students before they ever set foot on a campus tour.”

— Jeffrey J. Selingo, author of The Choice: A Year inside College Admissions—Who Gets In and Why

“At last, a book about the college admission process that doesn’t promise secret tips for admission (hint—there are none!) but instead provides advice from two respected and experienced professionals. If families are looking for how to manage the college admission process in an ethical, thoughtful, student-centered way, this book provides an important road map written in a way that even the most reluctant student will find engaging.”

— Thyra L. Briggs, Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid, Harvey Mudd College

“In a field that is sometimes viewed as nearly as much art as science and often fraught with misinformation, Barnard and Clark provide expertise that is accurate, useful, and empathetic to the needs of applicants and their families. The book is a terrific resource for students and parents.”

— Gary S. May, Chancellor, University of California at Davis

“We have allowed admission selectivity to become a proxy for quality when it comes to how we assess colleges and universities. Barnard and Clark help us remember that talented students and incredible universities, of all levels of selectivity, find their way to each other every year. The right combination of student and college can be transformative for both! This book is a much-needed resource for families.”

— Gary Clark, Director of Undergraduate Admission, University of California at Los Angeles

“I love this book. It’s packed with sensible advice and some wonderful questions. I highly recommend it.”

— Ethan Sawyer, College Essay Guy

“Honest, insightful, and practical. Barnard and Clark provide straightforward guidance to families working to make sense of an ever-changing higher education landscape. Their experiences and reflections help to provide organization to a process that can feel, at times, overwhelming.”

— Erica Sanders, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, University of Michigan

“A welcome antidote to today’s college admissions mania! The Truth about College Admission is filled with specific, often surprising, information and insights. A valuable combination of stories, statistics, exercises, and examples, this book is bound to stimulate productive conversations between parents and students. No magic, no guarantees—but instead a refreshing abundance of straightforward, sensible strategies and suggestions.  “

— Karen Levin Coburn, Senior Consultant in Residence, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Students, Washington University, coauthor, Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years

“As the parent of a college-bound student, The Truth about College Admission provides a much-needed dose of practical advice necessary to navigate the emotional roller coaster of the college admission process.”

— Ellen P-W., parent, Ambler, PA

“I read The Truth about College Admission in March while our high school senior was waiting to hear from her choices. This puts me about two years too late. I winced at where I got it wrong and felt lucky where I got it right. Clark and Barnard have combined their considerable experience to craft a guide that is witty and wise, profound and practical, funny and full of heart. They keep the focus on the essential questions in an effort to convert the college experience into something bold and wonderful—a celebration of family. This book will be my gift for friends who have children starting their college adventure.”

— Michael K-D., parent, Saint Paul, MN

“We could tell our sixteen-year-old was anxious about the college admission process. So we determined to make it a fun family activity: we agreed to meet once a week on Saturdays over cookies and tea to chat, ask questions, and explore ideas. What had been a dreaded topic became an enjoyable activity that she directed. We learned more in that first family conversation than we had over the previous several months of what seemed to her to be painful cross-examinations. This book is a godsend.”

— Paul M., parent, Pasadena, CA

“Every family approaching college applications should be armed with The Truth about College Admission. It begins with aligning expectations and establishing a game plan for success. Each chapter follows the process from discovery to applications and responses, and provides questions and realignment exercises for each engagement. This book helped us make sense of the process and understand the results. It was the soothing balm we all needed.”

— Linda S., parent, New York, NY

“Who knew a college admission book could be so enjoyable and provide pertinent information? This is exactly what I found. Clark and Barnard’s perspective, mixing facts with humor, helped reduce my own stress and gave me a much-needed reality check. The Truth about College Admission is an outstanding resource for families, as it thoughtfully addresses the journey of college admission from beginning to move-in day.”

— Tinsley H., parent, Peachtree Corners, GA

“During the college admission process, we were overwhelmed by all the ‘noise’ out there. I longed for guidance that would lead us in a way that felt more thoughtful and conscious. Then I found this book. It gave us permission to trust our own instincts and know that we don’t have to get caught up in hiring expensive college consultants and comparing our child’s journey to all her peers. Because we had this book as a resource, my family has learned to step back, take a deep breath, and ask questions about what’s really important to us. This book is my new go-to gift for the parent of every junior and senior in high school!”

— Kasey M., parent, Wilton, NH

“We love The Truth About College Admission. The tips and suggestions are realistic and practical. The sections about campus visits and essay writing were especially helpful to our son, and we appreciate the question prompts that let us know what we should be asking. My favorite feature, however, is the book’s honest and the optimistic tone. After reading this, we parked the helicopter and climbed in the family car.”

— Lisa S., parent, Ocala, FL

“Clark and Barnard’s writing effortlessly blends wisdom and wit, honesty and insight. It has truly saved our family’s sanity during our college admission adventure.”

— Gail and Loren S., parents, Atlanta, GA

“… helpful, candid and pragmatic.”

— Maureen Downey – Atlanta Journal Constitution

“[The Truth about College Admission] is THE admission guidebook for families that will take them through the entire college admissions process.”

— Melissa Fenton – Grown & Flown

“We absolutely love this new release by Brennan Barnard and Rick Clark… Without question, this book can help get students and parents in the right mindset to launch into the college process.”

— College Transitions

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