College Prep: Book simplifies college admissions process |

College Prep: Book simplifies college admissions process

Brian Underwood

There are “how to” books and then there are “how to” books.

Pick just about any hobby, project, or topic that moves you to learn more about it and how to refine your skill and you’ll likely find scads of resources that attempt to guide you. Some better than others.

It is no different with college planning resources. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books and resources on this ever-changing topic. But only one book gets back to basics with the help of more than 170 experts and more than 100 websites and other resources to help families navigate the twisting and winding road to college – step by step.

“College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step By Step,” co-written by Robin Mamlet and Christine Vandevelde, offers one of the finest, if not the finest, books on college planning on the market today.

Now headed into its fourth printing, this 405 page authoritative source that retails for $19.99 and is complemented by a vibrant website,, makes its mark in this multi-billion dollar industry by simplifying the process in a common sense manner with the help of some of the top experts in this field, beginning with the authors themselves.

Mamlet, a former dean of admission at Stanford, Swarthmore, and Sarah Lawrence, and Vandevelde, an accomplished journalist whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the San Francisco Chronicle, bring a unique collaborative element to the pages of College Admissions.

After becoming acquainted with Mamlet while writing for various Bay Area publications and while Mamlet served at Stanford, Vandevelde expressed concern to her future co-author about the dearth of quality books on how to walk parents through the maze of college planning. The concern was as much personal as it was professional for Vandevelde who had an emerging college-bound student of her own.

College Admission is unique to other books in this genre because it is truly comprehensive. Among the 170 experts cited are more than 50 deans of admissions, college counselors, psychologists, and sundry educators and administrators on the high school and college level.

“It speaks to the whole range of students who should be thinking about college,” Vandevelde shared during a recent interview. “And it speaks very specifically to students who come from under-resourced schools.”

At the heart of Mamlet and Vandevelde’s message is that the process, while definitely involved, does not require one to be an astrophysicist.

“It’s not rocket science,” Vandevelde reiterated more than once. “It’s hard work, but it’s doable.”

One of several mantras that the book underscores and Vandevelde reiterates is the fundamental importance of one’s academic record.

“I can’t emphasize enough, it’s a return to the basics,” she said. “The most important part of the application are the grades you earn and the courses you take within the context of what you have.”

Part three of the book, “Becoming College-Bound,” devotes important chapters to the academic record, as well as extracurricular activities, and taking tests. In speaking directly to this section, Vandevelde reinforces another important truth for aspiring college students, one that will affect their potential admissibility – and their future success in college.

“Read, read, read,” she states. “They key to doing well in school and getting into college is reading. It is also the best predictor of success in college.”

Part five, “Applying,” touches on several critical items relative to college interviews, recommendations, essays, and the application form. Complementing the rich information found in this section are several pearls of wisdom from Vandevelde.

“It’s really important to know that you don’t have to fake it to make it,” she shared when asked about key pieces of advice for applicants. “There is a high premium placed on sincerity. It’s about students discovering who they are and sharing. You will be successful not by being perfect but by being yourself.”

And as the successful college search requires good and health communication, it is important that this begin at home in the conversations between students and parents, not only for the clarity it brings during this unique time in a family’s life but also for the trust it helps to develop for the future.

“It’s important for parents to know their role,” Vandevelde stressed. “The student is in the driver’s seat.

“Parents are now cast in the role of adviser. At this point, they are auditioning to be a part of decisions for the rest of their child’s life. Tread lightly when talking about college.”

• Brian Underwood is the executive director of Sierra Lutheran High School. He can be reached at