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14 Books to Help Get Teens Ready for College

by Dena McMurdie

Photo credit: Terry Vine, The Image Bank Collection/Getty Images

College is an exciting time and place for young adults, but it can also be unsettling. Thankfully, there are plenty of books to help your child make a smooth transition to living independently and navigating the world of higher education.

Whether they’re interested in fiction or nonfiction, here are some fantastic stories and resources to help your teen get ready for college.

  • Fiction

  • Every Body Looking

    by Candice Iloh

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    Going to college means that Ada will be living away from her family for the first time in her life. The distance gives her anxiety, but breathing room, too. She has the opportunity to reflect on her upbringing, her family’s expectations, and what she wants for herself. This National Book Award Finalist is about a young woman figuring out who she is and finding the courage to live authentically.

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  • Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman

    by Kristen R. Lee

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    Overachieving college freshman Savannah worked hard to get accepted to a top school, and she plans to hit the books just as hard during the next four years. But as she gets to know the other students and the university’s racist history, she learns that they stacked the odds against her. Recent high school graduates and teens in college will appreciate this rallying story of a girl who refuses to stay silent about injustice.

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  • We Are Okay

    by Nina LaCour

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    Keep a box of tissues on hand as you read because this short novel packs an emotional punch. Reeling from grief, Marin left her old life behind when she went to college. During a solitary winter break in her dorm room, an old friend comes to visit. Seeing her friend forces Marin to face the trauma from her past and find a way to heal.

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  • Time of Our Lives

    by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

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    Fitz and Juniper couldn’t be any more different. But when they cross paths on their East Coast college tours, sparks fly between them. Because they come from vastly different backgrounds, the teens inspire and challenge each other to explore their college and life options. 

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  • The Ivies

    by Alexa Donne

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    College admissions turn deadly in this nail-biting YA thriller. A group of friends at an elite boarding school will do anything to sabotage their classmates and solidify their acceptance to an Ivy League university. YA readers will enjoy reading this binge-worthy novel that takes the competitive application landscape to the limit.

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  • Freshmen

    by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

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    Humor, first love, and drama combine in this charming YA novel set in college. Phoebe is thrilled to be living on her own and enjoys the freedom that comes with it. The only person from her high school attending the same college is her long-time crush named Luke, who uses his freshman year to reinvent himself. Phoebe and Luke start dating, but a school scandal makes their first year of independence one of uncertainty. 

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  • Admission

    by Julie Buxbaum

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    When the FBI arrests her mom for bribing the college admissions team, Chloe’s idealistic life evaporates. She has to come to terms with her mother’s actions and the part she played in them. This timely novel is perfect for anyone who was captivated by the college admissions scandal that dominated recent news.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2021 and updated in 2022.