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When Your Kid Goes to College, and other good books

Heading to university for the first time can be pretty scary, and not just for the student. This is especially true for those studying abroad. While everyone's college experience will differ, some challenges are quite common and some - like COVID-19 - are very new.

Fortunately, there are a lot of books on the subject so you're bound to find one that might answer some questions and ease your fears. *

12 books about university for students and parents

College Admissions During COVID, by Robert Franek

Franek is the Princeton Review's editor-in-chief and author of The Best 384 Colleges. This book claims to have "all of the answers to your most pressing questions" for students graduating from university in 2021 and 2022. It covers admissions, scholarships, exams, and how COVID-19 has affected campus life. Because protocol can vary, it's best to visit the university websites for the most up-to-date information.

How to Raise an Adult, by Julie Lythcott-Haims

The underlying message of this book, written by the former dean of freshmen at Stanford University, is that it's OK to let kids make mistakes. This builds resilience and self-reliance - things that that we cull by being too overprotective. Lythcott-Haims claims that helicopter parenting both threatens your child's earning power and will cause "enormous psychological harm".

How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You're There), by Andrea Malkin Brenner and Lara Hope Schwartz

This book is a good guide for high school students transitioning into university. Boarding students might have heard all this advice already. Students who are studying abroad for the first time will find the practical tips useful and easy to read.

The Truth about College Admission, by Brennan Barnard & Rick Clark

Applying for college can affect the entire family, and that's where this book comes in. Unlike some books, this one doesn't claim to have the secrets to university admissions. It will, however, help parents and students make sense of the process with straightforward information.

Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be, by Frank Bruni

The subtitle of this book is "An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania". It aims to reassure families that students can thrive in any environment. The author discusses "labels" and how our obsession with status can affect a student's happiness (and success).

While where you go doesn't necessarily define who you are, it can certainly lead to a lot of opportunities. Have you considered which countries offer the best post-study work visas for international students?

The Fiske Guide to Colleges, by Edward Fiske

Authored by the former The New York Times education editor, this best-selling guide highlights what Fiske calls the "best and most interesting" higher-education schools in the US. You can compare colleges and universities (about 320 are mentioned) as well as how your grades and scores measure up against your peers.

Over 1 million international students study in the US every year. These are the top 5 most popular states and their schools.

The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, by Harlan Cohen

This funny and easy-to-read book covers "what if" situations mostly geared toward students going to a US university. Some readers call it "shockingly honest" and "in your face". Read this with your child - it'll give you plenty to talk about!

Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World, by Ana Homayoun

If you're a parent, you may be so distracted by your fears about the effects of social media that you're not having healthy conversations about it. A well-researched book that encourages healthy socialisation, self-regulation and safety when it comes the internet and social media. The internet's not all bad. There are a lot of different apps, including those for campus safety, that can help international students get the most out of their time in college.

The Sunday Times Good University Guide: Where to Go and What to Study, by John O'Leary

Written by the former editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement, this guide has been around for 25 years. It includes a handy timeline to assist students' applications so they don't miss key dates.

The Princeton Review: The Best 384 Colleges, By Robert Franek

Armed with the knowledge that no one university is right for everyone, this asks students to consider 4 wants and needs when choosing a university: financial aid; career services; the school culture; and academics.

The Hidden Ivies: 63 of America's Top Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities, by Howard Greene and Matthew Greene

This book tells you what a lot of parents are asking: what exactly is a liberal arts education and why is it important? And how does an Ivy League school differ from others?

Time Management Secrets for College Students: The Underground Playbook for Managing School, Work, and Fun, by Dennis Stemmle

Why are first-year university student drop out rates as high as 30%? A successful transition depends on the skills the students will need to manage their new environment, including good time management. Parents and students alike will benefit from reading this book before university starts.

Good & Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day, by Leanne Brown Page

Author Leanne Brown busts the myth that you need to spend a lot of money to make nutritious and delicious meals. "Frugal" cooking requires flexibility, says the author, who's also known for her SNAP cookbooks (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or "food stamps"). The PDF version of this book is offered free in English and Spanish. Great for anyone who's stretching a food budget but still wants healthy, home cooked meals.

Learn more about our international services

Adjusting to university can be difficult in many ways, and it might take more than a good book to guide you. At HSBC, we offer tailored services to help with all stages of life, including a study abroad and student banking.

Study abroad resources for parents, students and graduates


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* While we're not endorsing these books, we do feel it's a pretty well-rounded selection to get you started on your education journey.