Mamlet & VanDeVelde: One College Admissions Book to Rule Them All?

mamlet admissions bookBy Taylor Cotter Staff

Are you overwhelmed by the number of books out there that promise to clue you in on the nerve-racking college admissions process? Us too! But every now and then one college admissions book comes along and proves itself to be a real “game changer.” College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Stepa comprehensive guide for parents and students in the throes of the college application process, is one of the few college admissions books to earn our StudentAdvisor seal of approval. Authors Robin Mamlet, former Dean of Admission at Stanford, Swarthmore and Sarah Lawrence, and Christine VanDeVelde, journalist and parent, took a critical look at the college application process, and shared best practices for finding and getting accepted into the “right-fit” schools.

Admissions Pointers for Every Kind of Student

The book covers everything from becoming college-bound as a young student, to deciding where to apply, to actually applying, to deciding where to go and how to pay for it. One of the things we love most about this book is that Mamlet and VanDeVelde address a wide variety of student-specific issues, such as learning disabilities, home-schooled students, undocumented students, legacy students, in addition to issues pertaining to art students and student-athletes. No matter what concerns students and parents have about getting into college, they’ll find practical pointers and a list of action items for almost every situation.

Real Admissions Advice from Real College Admissions Professionals

Who better to learn about the wild world of college admissions from than a bunch of actual Deans of Admission? In addition to their wealth of experience, the authors include a litany of deans of admission from over 50 college and universities, half a dozen financial aid officers, high school college counselors, professors, teachers, college students and experts in college admissions and parenting.

Some of the most valuable advice is for students that have barely started thinking about life after high school – 9th and 10th graders. Mamlet and VanDeVelde prepare them for the adventure that is to come – making sure that they’re focused on, not blinded by, the college application process:

“The hype surrounding college admission has spun so far out of control that headlines hawking tutoring, test prep, and a campus visits for students in elementary school are commonplace. When a magazine for Harvard alumni set out to produce a tongue-in-cheek guide to preparing a child in utero for admission, the editor complained it was almost impossible to satirize the subject because every ridiculous recommendation they came up with was actually in use.

So when should the college application process really begin?

Elementary school is way too early. But students and parents can also make the mistake of starting way too late. For most students, the formal application process will begin in the junior year of high school Before that, most students should simply enjoy being in high school – discovering who they are and exploring what they like to do. Rod Skinner, direct of college counseling at Massachusetts’ Milton Academy, says, “Build a life and the colleges that work for you will come.

Very First Steps: Freshman and Sophomore Years: During the freshman and sophomore years of high school, there are a few things that students can and should do. But these things should be done in the spirit of being aware of college as a goal and making decisions that keep doors open – not with a fat envelope in mind.


  • For most students, the college admission process will begin in junior year.
  • During 9th and 10th grade, students should pay attention to course work and grades, find and invest in some extracurricular activities they love, and spend a good dose of time daydreaming.
  • Too much pressure to perform can have serious negative consequences for health and learning.
  • For families who will be applying for financial aid (and this is the majority of families), keep saving and practice good record keeping.

Reprinted from the book College Admission by Robin Mamlet and Christine VanDeVelde. Copyright © 2011 by Robin Mamlet and Christine VanDeVelde. Published by Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, Inc. 


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