Finding first-year success
"MAKING THE MOST OF COLLEGE: STUDENTS SPEAK THEIR MINDS" by Richard J. Light (Harvard University Press, $24.95). Thoughtful, well-written; based on years of interviews with students, faculty and staff.
"HOW TO WIN AT COLLEGE: SURPRISING SECRETS FOR SUCCESS FROM THE COUNTRY'S TOP STUDENT," by Cal Newport (Broadway, $11.95). This deliberately provocative book is a good way for a smart student to see how out-of-the-box thinking can lead to success in college. Its against-the-grain advice, in some places, will not be as suitable for the less sophisticated or too-literal-minded reader.
"COLLEGE CLUES FOR THE CLUELESS" of the multi-authored "Clues" series (Promise Press, $8.99). Uses Christian scripture to bolster its points about college life; can provide a useful framework for discussion between students and parents for whom more secular guides are not fully helpful.
"LIVING THE COLLEGE LIFE: REAL STUDENTS. REAL EXPERIENCES. REAL ADVICE" by Kenneth Paulsen (Cliffs Notes, $12.99). Cliffs Notes get a bad rap for creating boiled-down versions of classics, but this guide (authored by a journalism professor) has a smart Q&A format. Lots of topics, from dorm life to academics, with level-headed answers based on real-student interviews.
Many books aimed at first-year college students are longer on safe-partying guidelines and shorter on academic-success tips than many parents would like. But the appeal to student readers and usefulness of the blunt advice offered can be considerable. Among the better books in this category are:
"HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR FRESHMAN YEAR," edited by Mark Bernstein and Yadin Kaufmann (Hundreds of Heads Books, $12.95)
"REAL COLLEGE: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO STUDENT LIFE" by Douglas Stone and Elizabeth Tippett (Penguin, $14)
"THE NAKED ROOMMATE: AND 107 OTHER ISSUES YOU MIGHT RUN INTO IN COLLEGE" by Harlan Cohen (Sourcebooks, $14.95)
"THE REAL FRESHMAN HANDBOOK: A TOTALLY HONEST GUIDE TO LIFE ON CAMPUS" by Jennifer Hanson (Houghton Mifflin, $10)
Picking a school
U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT
College-bound students and their parents flock to newsstands when its best-college issue goes to print each summer. Washington's Gonzaga University and Whitworth College rate on the top 10 master's programs in the West.
Rich college profiles, full of descriptions and stats. In addition to the typical college search, Peterson's lets students explore alternative education in niche areas, from info tech to performing arts.
STUDENTS' GUIDE TO COLLEGES edited by Jordan Goldman and Colleen Buyers (Penguin Books, $18), www.StudentsGuide.com
Bills itself as the only guide entirely written by students, for students. Useful, straight talk about what "America's top 100 schools" are like, academically and socially.
THE CENTER FOR STUDENT SUCCESS, www.centerforstudentsuccess.org
Information and assistance for admissions, financial aid, scholarship-search. You can visit its Seattle center and use its free tools and resources to explore career interests and options. 190 Queen Anne Ave. N., 800-562-3001.
NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS , www.nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cool
Well worth a visit. Assets include the ability to look up colleges by state. For example, you can ask what public colleges teach architecture in Washington (Answer: UW, Washington State and Eastern).
MY COLLEGE GUIDE , www.mycollegeguide.org
Flashy, yet functional. You can pose your tough questions and The Admissions Guru will answer.
"COLLEGE HANDBOOK 2005" by the College Board, $27.95. Comprehensive list of more than 3,600 two- and four-year colleges in the U.S. School counselors view this hefty tome as a must-have, so you'll probably find it in your school counseling office.
"THE BEST 357 COLLEGES," by The Princeton Review (Random House, $21.95), www.princetonreview.com/college/default.asp
Each college gets a two-page spread. Rankings cover 60 categories from academics and political leaning to cafeteria food and dormitories, with insights from students themselves.
"THE INSIDER'S GUIDE TO THE COLLEGES," by Yale Daily News Staff (St. Martin's, $18.99). The scoop on everything from drug use to dorm food at more than 320 schools, from the students who live there.
"THE FISKE GUIDE TO GETTING INTO THE RIGHT COLLEGE," by Edward Fiske with Robert Logue (Times Books, $22.95). All-in-one guide. Includes list of each school's strongest departments and majors; rates schools on a 1-to-5 scale for academics, social life and quality life.
2006 KAPLAN /NEWSWEEK "AMERICA'S HOTTEST COLLEGES," $9.95. A magazine that might as well be a book, this 273-page guide blends how-to advice, a list of "25 Hottest Schools," and newsy pieces on getting into your dream school, early decisions, deferred admissions and more.
"COLLEGES FOR STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES OR ADD," (formerly known as "Peterson's Colleges With Programs for Students With Learning Disabilities Or Attention Deficit Disorders") by Charles T. Magrum and Stephen S. Strichart (Peterson's Guides, $29.95). Compare 750 two- and four-year colleges. Included: schools with taped textbooks, human note-takers, remediation classes, and tutoring or counseling. Washington State University and Western Washington University make the list.
NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION , www2.ncaa.org
Info here could pack a football stadium: recruiting calendars, game schedules, school rankings, NCAA scholarship details and athletic contacts.
"STUDY AWAY: THE UNAUTHORIZED GUIDE TO STUDY ABROAD" by Mariah Balaban and Jennifer Shields, (Anchor Books, $13.95). Profiles 68 English-language schools in more than 30 countries.
THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOLS OF ART AND DESIGN
From Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts to the crème de la crème Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, this site links users to Web sites for 248 arts and design schools. Most are collegiate level, but this site also includes precollegiate and community schools for visual-arts disciplines.
Link to Seattle Art Institute and dozens of other arts schools, arranged by city and state. Includes online programs and those specializing in digital design.
Takes users to schools, colleges, programs and workshops in everything from animation to shoe design. Another favorite feature: lists of art scholarships and tips on attending art grad school.
The WASHINGTON HIGHER EDUCATION COORDINATING BOARD
Megalist of Washington schools, including community, technical and business colleges, including schools that offer online programs.
WASHINGTON STATE WORKFORCE TRAINING AND EDUCATION COORDINATING BOARD
www.wtb.wa.gov or 360-753-5673.
Lists private vocational schools, offers tips on how to choose one. This board also publishes "Where Are You Going?" — a recently updated booklet (and electronic PDF file) to scan occupations and find out where to get training for each in Washington state, and projects that occupation's hiring outlook in the state. To order, call 360-753-0892 or download from www.wtb.wa.gov/publications.html
THE VOCATIONAL INFORMATION CENTER: http://www.khake.com
Electronic clearinghouse that sorts vocations alphabetically — from agriculture to welding — or by state. Check to see if programs are accredited and meet professional standards, or if they qualify for federal grant and loan programs.
"PETERSON'S GUIDE TO DISTANCE LEARNING PROGRAMS 2005," (Petersons Guides, $29.95). More than 4,600 profiles of more than 1,100 accredited degree-granting U.S. and Canadian schools with distance-learning programs.
AMERICAN DISTANCE EDUCATION CONSORTIUM
A list of about 65 state universities and colleges with real degrees from their virtual programs.
ONLINE DEGREES AND PROGRAM INFORMATION
Solid answers to common questions about online programs, also links to some programs (again, check with the state higher-education or workforce training boards about any program you're interested in).
Military and Maritime Schools
The service academies:
WEST POINT (Army), www.usma.edu
ANNAPOLIS (Navy), www.usna.edu
AIR FORCE, www.usafa.edu
COAST GUARD, www.cga.edu
THE ASSOCIATION OF MILITARY COLLEGES AND SCHOOLS, www.amcsus.org
Run by a nonprofit organization for schools with military programs approved by the Department of Defense, this site links to the home pages of 42 military schools.
THE MERCHANT MARINE ACADEMY, www.usmma.edu/
For folks hankering to traverse the trade routes of the seven seas, this site supplies details of the four-year program located in Kings Point, N.Y.
SEATTLE MARITIME ACADEMY, seattlecentral.org/maritime/
Located in Ballard; trains students to work in commercial fishing, with the Merchant Marines and on work boats; offers certificates in marine-deck technology and marine-engineering technology.
Companies offer a wide range of services, including:
Kaplan's current offerings range from free events sponsored by Seattle Public Schools; to books/CDs and new course materials that can run on cellphones and PDAs; online and traditional classroom courses; and private tutoring sessions. Prices, which are subject to change, range from $6.99 for a test-prep book to $899 for a block of classroom sessions to $4,199 for private tutoring.
For free: You can also download a practice SAT (and ACT) on www.kaptest.com
The Princeton Review prices cover a similarly wide range, with free events and books; online courses, classroom courses up to $899 and private tutoring topping out at $5,400.
For free: It also offers a practice test, on www.princetonreview.com
The College Board itself offers an online course for $70 and a prep book, "The Official SAT Study Guide: For the New SAT" for $20.
For free: It also offers a full-length practice test and gives you a free score and skills report and explanations to all test answers, with tips on the SAT essay, too. www.collegeboard.com
EssayEdge's "Harvard-educated editors" charge $20 to score and critique your sample SAT essay; $50 to additionally revise the essay. (Also offered: college-application essay coaching, for $100-$300).
For free: Before-after writing samples and critiques posted, on www.essayedge.com
"Up Your Score: The Underground Guide to the SAT 2005-2006," (Workman Publishing, $10.95), helps the medicine go down with lots of humor and pop-culture references. Originally written by three high-school friends, this guide has been updated every few years by students who aced the SAT, which they refer to as the Slimy Atrocious Torture.
Download the common application and — voilà! — you have a form you can fill in, photocopy and mail off to several colleges at once. Schools accepting the common application are listed, from Adelphi in New York to Yale.
This free Web site covers the admissions basics as well as serving as home base for the SAT, SAT II and AP exam.
"GET INTO ANY COLLEGE: SECRETS OF HARVARD STUDENTS" by Gen S. Tanabe and Kelly Y. Tanabe, (SuperCollege, $16.95).
More lively than most guides, this one promises to help you create a "stunning" application and an "irresistible" essay. A tip on essays: Avoid dumb topics, such as your dysfunctional family or why College X is perfect for you. (The college is well aware of its scenic campus and excellent profs; it would rather hear something new.)
"PANICKED PARENTS' GUIDE TO COLLEGE ADMISSIONS" Sally Rubenstone and Sidonia Dalby, (Thomson and Peterson's, $14.95). Tackles questions not often covered elsewhere: How involved should parents be in college selection? Who are independent counselors and how do you know if you need one? If your child doesn't get into a school, can you appeal?
"THE GATEKEEPERS: INSIDE THE ADMISSIONS PROCESS OF A PREMIER COLLEGE," by Jacques Steinberg (Penguin Books, $15). Behind-the-scenes account by a New York Times education reporter. A must-read for anyone aiming for a "selective" university.
THE CALENDAR COACH FOR COLLEGE-BOUND STUDENTS, www.thecalendarcoach.com, $17.95 ordered online. Separate calendar versions for junior and senior years, with detailed to-do lists for each month to organize the application process. Recent college-grad verdict: "My mom would have loved it."
Figuring out financing
Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board, www.hecb.wa.gov/paying/index.asp
Tailor-made for Washington residents: a directory of state-sponsored financial-aid programs.
Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program, www.get.wa.gov/
Everything you ever wanted to know about Washington state's own prepaid-tuition program.
The Northwest Education Loan Association, www.nela.net
Help with loan programs, tax breaks and budgeting for college. Includes calculator to estimate how much aid you might qualify for.
College Savings Plans Network, www.collegesavings.org
Skinny on state-sponsored college-savings plans throughout the U.S.
National Institute of Certified College Financial Planners,
Help finding a local financial planner.
FinAid, The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid, www.finaid.org
One-stop shop full of financial-aid FAQs, calculators and aid-application guidance. "Ask the Adviser" feature offers personalized help from a financial-aid professional.
National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators , www.nasfaa.org/
User-friendly summary of state savings plans, guide to federal tax benefits for tuition and fees, and more.
Funding Your Education, www.studentaid.ed.gov/pubs
By Department of Education; also available as a free booklet available by calling 1-800-433-3243. Explains the financial-aid process; ins and outs of student loans.