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10 Books Every Admissions Professional Should Read


Whether you’re looking to brush up on your theory or some new bedtime reading, we have 10 books every admissions professional should read.

1. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

This classic book on persuasion explains the psychology behind why people say “yes,” and offers up ways to apply these learnings. If you’re interested in how to apply psychology to admissions recruiting, this is the book for you. Bonus: It’s not nearly as dense as you’d think.

2. Generation Z Goes to College

Millennials are being rapidly replaced with students from Generation Z, all of whom have vastly different characteristics and tastes than their predecessors. In this book, authors Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace detail what makes this generation so different from Millennials to help admissions professional better understand this important demographic. For a snippet of what you might learn, read our interview with Seemiller.

3. Admission

For the admission professional looking for fiction, “Admission” by Jean Hanaff Korelitz, is the perfect place to start. “Admission” follows Portia Nathan, an overly dedicated Princeton admissions officer who meets a gifted but difficult teen who isn’t quite up to Princeton’s standards. It forces her to confront a painful secret. The book is the basis for the 2013 film of the same name, starring Tina Fey.

4. Toward a More Perfect University

If you want to take a step outside of admissions, but still stick with higher education, read Jonathan R. Cole’s “Toward a More Perfect University.” You’ll get a deep dive into how Cole, former provost and current University Professor at Columbia University, believes American universities should change in the decades to come to maintain their dominance.

5. Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Chances are you’ve heard of this book. This New York Times bestseller is one of the definitive reads for anyone interested in understanding how ideas and concepts catch on (hence, the name). Best of all, “Contagious” provides a set of specific techniques for helping information spread. And when you’re trying to spread information about your college or university, there’s no better thing to understand.

6. College Unranked: Ending the College Admissions Frenzy

Edited by Lloyd Thacker, “College Unranked: Ending College Admissions Frenzy” tackles the pervasive idea that in order for a student to thrive, they must attend a top-ranked, prestigious school. In this book, you’ll be reminded through a series of essays from admissions counselors to admissions deans that higher education is a matter of fit, not just rank. NACAC’s review called the collection of essays, “a startling look into the modern day rat race of selecting an institution.”

7. How to Recruit and Retain Higher Education Students: A Handbook of Good Practice

If you’re in the mood for some theory, “How to Recruit and Retain Higher Education Students” is a good start. You’ll learn a series of best practices that have been proven to encourage students to stay at a school.

8. Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites

Interested in learning what it’s like to be an admissions professional at an elite school? Mitchell Stevens’ 2009 book details the year and a half he spent at a New England college known for it’s high academic standards, and explains how elite college and universities play a central role in the creation of the nation’s privileged classes.

9. The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton

For a fascinating look at admissions history, read Jermone Karabel’s “The Chosen.” Karabel’s book recounts how the admissions office first emerged in the 1920s as an academic innovation designed to protect WASP privilege through the attempts to diversify the student body in the 1960s.

10. First-Generation College Students: Understanding and Improving the Experience from Recruitment to Commencement

If you’re interested in First Generation college students, this book offers up a clear definition of this demographic, as well as various examples of successful college transition programs offered at colleges and universities of all sizes and locations.

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