When you scan the array of college prep books, there are a scarily huge number of look-alike titles — all of which sound like crucial reading. Here, we’ve boiled it down to five great books that really get it right.

Want to steer your teenager toward parts of these books without being pushy? Use a yellow marker to highlight what you regard as exciting segments and choices in these five books. You can use different colors to indicate reach, target, and safety schools. Don’t highlight too many, unless your teen asks for additional help, and above all, let them know you respect their decisions.

College prep timelines

Check out our month-by-month college prep timelines for 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, and 12th grade.