10/30/2012 03:03 pm ET Updated Dec 23, 2012

The College Book Every 10th Grade Family Must Read

"Excuse me, Dr. O'Connor?"


"I'm Martha Hollings. My daughter Amy is a sophomore."

"It's nice meeting you. Do you have an-- "

"Appointment? No, and your secretary told me you were busy getting all the early applications out. EA, ED, REA, Snap apps, Early Notification -- it's like you have to learn a second language just to get your kid into college."

"Well, you have plenty of time to learn the lingo, Mrs. Hollings."

"That's what brings me in. I was in a tennis league with seven other mothers, and six of them have children who are seniors this year. They used to be calm, rationale people, Dr. O'Connor. They had good jobs, kept up with world events, and were fun to be with."

"Until... "

"Until their kids took their first ACT in December of their junior year. After that, college became their daily obsession. Three moms quit their jobs, five quit the tennis league, and four of them spent New Year's Eve on analyzing conflicting reports of Ivy League admit rates. One family gave up the summer cabin they'd had near Pike's Peak for 20 years just so their son could attend a special test prep camp that offered..."

"... a chance to take the SAT in the summer?"

"Yes. Dr. O'Connor, I realize I went to college a long time ago, but am I really going to have to give up my life and most of my cerebral cortex just to get my daughter into a good college?"

"Mrs. Hollings, there are two things you'll have to give up, but they aren't your life or your brain."

"No. Well, what then?"

"First, you'll have to give up about 12 dollars."

"Twelve dollars? To you? As a bribe, you mean? Really, Dr. O'Connor, I think you could get more than-- "

"Twelve dollars is the cost of a copy of Colleges That Change Lives. The third edition just came out this year, and the first few chapters of the book talk about the qualities that make a good college."

"Qualities? Like what?"

"Like a college's ability to focus on good teaching and student learning, or to get students to think about things they'd never considered before. A college's ability to teach students flexibility in their thought, so they can be successful in life..."

"... and in the workplace? I love my Amy, but she's not going to college just so she can come home and live on my couch in four years."

"It's pretty clear that the workplace of the future will require people who can go with the flow and continually learn. A liberal arts education provides students with those essential skills."

"Did you say 'liberal arts'? This sounds expensive."

"The 44 colleges listed in Colleges That Change Lives are all small, liberal arts colleges, but many of them offer financial aid that can make them as affordable as a state university. In addition, once you read the book and the CTCL Web site and see what these colleges offer, you'll never visit another college without looking for the same student-centered qualities talked about in CTCL."

"So other colleges have these same qualities?"

"Sure. The colleges described in the book just have an ample supply of them."

"And once I read this book, I won't have to stress out about college?"

"Once you read this book, the college selection process will only be about possibilities."

"It's funny. never mentions Colleges That Change Lives."

"Which is why that's the second thing you have to give up."

"The website?"

"And the drama. It's going to be fine."