A closer look at college survival guides 

Preparing for college can be an ordeal. Not only is there packing and pacifying nostalgic parents, there's the mental stress of not knowing what to expect. Opinions vary.

Asher Roth makes college sound like a drunken orgy, while statistics show that kids fight to pay for college without matriculating thousands of dollars in debt. Hardly makes college seem solely for slacking off. The bottom line is that college is what you make it – but it always helps to get advice from people who've taken the four-, five-, or six-year journey in stride, had a great time, and lived to tell the story.

The Ultimate College Survival Guide: 4th Edition by Peterson's (Peterson's)

THE GOOD: Peterson's knows college. This guide gives you advice on fashion while simultaneously waxing philosophical: "College is a series of choices."

THE BAD: First published in 1998. Kids might as well be going to college on Mars these days.

THE FUN FACT: All the editions are pretty interchangeable.

Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools You Should Know About Even If You're Not a Straight-A Student by Loren Pope (Penguin)

THE GOOD: You may think this book is just for college applicants. Wrong. What happens when you find you have no chemistry with your campus? One word: Transfer. This book lays out 40 alternatives for you.

THE BAD: You might love your college upon arrival and live happily ever after, thus making this book obsolete.

THE FUN FACT: The 40 schools highlighted aren't generic Harvard wannabes, they select students with a variety of abilities. Featured schools include Iowa's Grinnell College and Washington's Whitman College.

How to Go to College for Free: The Secrets of Winning Scholarship Money: 2nd Edition by Ben Kaplan (HarperCollins)

THE GOOD: I don't know about you, but I was all ears at "free." Kaplan got more than $90,000 in scholarship money and he's sharing his secrets with you. Includes interviews with scholarship winners.

THE BAD: There's a sea of applications in your future.

THE FUN FACT: A lot of these "secret scholarships" are immune to GPA.

Confessions of a College Freshman: A Survival Guide to Dorm Life: Biology Lab, the Cafeteria, and Other First-Year Adventures by Zach Arrington (David C. Cook)

THE GOOD: Four-year college guides are good, but special attention must be paid to that vomit-inducing fear specific to freshmen. This guide is for helping you "survive" that first year.

THE BAD: Some of the possible problems discussed might cause nausea instead of curing it.

THE FUN FACT: The sections are fun – there's a Chapter Zero: "Time Management, Auto Theft and General Naughtiness."

The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College: 2nd Edition by Harlan Cohen (SourceBooks)

THE GOOD: This book comes across as the end-all-to-be-all of college books and well, it kind of is. Read it cover to cover. Live by it. Breathe it. Just kidding, except for that first one. From freshmen to seniors, this book is a must-read. It has advice on everything from laundry to academic life, having sex to not having sex, drinking to not drinking, pot, gum, everything else and of course, a whole chapter dedicated to the No. 1 problem facing college kids today: trying to cover up that pesky naked roommate.

THE BAD: It's not the "World's No. 1 Going to College Book" for no reason, but because it's all-inclusive, some sections leave you asking, "So, what should I do in this situation again?" Just remember the college experience is what you make it. These books are guides, not rules.

THE FUN FACT: The greatest thing about this book is that it's full of stories from college kids all over the country, many of them detailing stupid decisions, making for a perfect "how-not-to" guide.


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