I’ve had this grouping of book recs typed up for a while, and in the wake of the whole US College Bribery scandal happening, I thought it would be a great moment to finally post this list of books! (What better time than now?)
If you’ve ever been stressed about college apps and paying for college and all sorts of college topics (while still being in high school), this list is for you! I felt so seen by some of these which really accurately portrayed just how stressful high school & college apps are!
So, here are 5 YA novels that talk about college-related stress (and a few even touch on potential cheating/manipulation in the college landscape, which is obviously the tea y’all are looking for!). Enjoy!
We Regret to Inform You by Ariel Kaplan
I read this book in January after seeing it on the Barnes and Noble Teen Blog and can I just say, if you were remotely intrigued by the drama about all these rich people paying their way into college, you should definitely, 100% check out We Regret to Inform You.
I can’t say much because ~spoilers~ but I would like to assert that there’s a mystery about why Mischa hasn’t gotten into college, when some of her less qualified peers managed to get into top schools. And the drama gets spicy and totally touches on socioeconomic issues as well as just how messed up the college system is in general!
You get all the college drama from the perspective a scholarship student in a private high school vs. the privileged people, so it’s a win-win for everyone!
You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman
You Asked for Perfect focuses less on scandal and more on “holy cow getting into college is stressful WHY ARE THEY PUTTING KIDS THROUGH THIS???”
It’s great, and anyone who has ever stressed over college and getting in will be able to totally relate to the life-crushing stress Ariel experiences. Gives me chills at how real this book is.
Ariel’s crumbling under all the pressure of applying to Harvard, maintaining his grades, keeping up with his friends, and he feels like he’s on the brink of crashing and burning. I’ve felt this way, and if you want to see just how much college applications can mess up teens’ mental health, definitely take a peek at You Asked for Perfect!
500 Words or Less by Juleah del Rosario
I have not read 500 Words or Less yet, but I currently have it checked out from my library!
It’s a book in verse (!!!) about a teen who begins writing college admissions essays for her classmates, which leads her to question her own morality and who she is.
I’m really excited to read, not only because this is one of those areas where it’s basically legal to lie to get into college (rich people do it all the time–paying people to heavily clean up aka write their kids’ college essays I’M TOTALLY NOT SALTY), but also to see how it affects the essay writer–especially when she’s a student, not a random adult.
It just seems really interesting, and I’m excited to see how del Rosario explores this gray area!
Immoral Code by Lillian J. Clark
This book on the list takes a little bit of a spin and talks about the soul-crushing element that is financial aid in a different sort of setting!
Although it does feature a heist (!!!), Immoral Code is ultimately a book about a friend group and its struggles, and its plot is heavily driven by the fact that Bellamy is getting no aid to go to MIT because her rich, estranged dad filled out the financial information for her, but isn’t paying for it.
One of the biggest stresses about applying to college is not just gettting in, but also affording to go, and Clark takes this and turns it into a novel about friendship and family, all with a little heist thrown in. It’s fun, and I would definitely recommend if stealing money from the rich sounds intriguing to you!
Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia
This book was recommended to me by the lovely Sierra Elmore, and it sounds fantastic and really entertaining!
Not only does it talk about the high expectations and competition there is to get into top colleges, but it also seems extremely entertaining.
Reshma may be a top-overacheiver at her school, but she doesn’t think it’s enough to get into Stanford, and she needs a hook. Enter, getting a literary agent and writing a book. But Reshma’s life is nowhere near as entertaining as normal fiction, so she starts doing “regular American girl stuff” to create that perfect character arc. But things don’t go the way she plans . . .
I’m excited to read! It sounds really interesting and a bit silly, but ultimately a book about finding yourself!