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Beyond High School YA: From Senior Stress To College and More


As you read this, I will likely be sitting in a testing room taking the SAT. Or, if you're reading this later in the week, I might be in an AP exam. As my senior year winds down, I'm doing the last unfortunate bits on the road to college. It's made me reflect on some of the books that I've read before and during this experience that has allowed me to see myself and learn what to expect, something I've always looked to books to do. I hope you enjoy the list, and, as a little disclaimer, I added purchase links of Indie Bound that are affiliate links simply for your ease. I may get a small commission if you choose to purchase. And if you know of any college set or college themed YA, please let me know on social media or in the comments below. I'm always on the lookout!

Getting In To College

I have not read a book that more accurately encompasses all the pressures, stress, and ridiculous aspects of senior year and getting into college. Everyone I've talked to who's read this book has had the same reaction of "Oh my god this is me!". Oftentimes, when I find myself overwhelmed or frustrated with a certain aspect of the admissions process, I always think back to Ariel and remember that I'm not alone in this. It doesn't matter where you are in life, this is a book that everyone needs to read. 

This verse novel points out how competitive and difficult the admissions process is by telling the story of a girl who sells admissions essays to students at her schools. It makes clear how far the admissions process has been undermined by some and how hard it is to compete in a really cutthroat competition of resources. 

This read points out another failure of the college process- the staggering costs that are only rising. Bellamy gets into MIT because she's basically a genius, but the father she's never met (who happens to be a billionaire) means she can't get a dime of financial aid even though her mother's two jobs have barely kept a roof over their heads. Even though she's beat the extremely slim odds, with less resources than most, the cost might keep Bellamy out of college. Of course, a heist ensues to get her the money. 

While less focused on the admissions process itself, the final Laura Jean book does dig into other complicated realities when going to college like choosing how far to go from home and the question of how to maintain high school relationships going into college. 

College Life

For Penny, college hasn't been a very active choice, even as she loads her stuff into her dorm room. Her acceptance to UT was automatic because she was in the top 10% of her class. She's not going too far from home, but she wants to become a writer and move on from her high school past. When she runs into Sam, who's struggling on his own at a bakery instead of a dorm room, she finds a lifeline to hold onto through the struggles that come with adjusting to a new life. 

Mei is going to college a year early (like me which was cool to read about), and she's going to MIT at that. It's all part of her parent's perfect plan for her. An Ivy League education will lead to becoming a successful doctor who can attract a suitable Taiwanese husband to have children with. Unfortunately, Mei doesn't want to be a dancer, she doesn't want to be perfect, and she's confused between being what was expected and who she wants to be. Mei comes back to dance to center herself during the difficult and hectic turn of her life. 

This was my first taste of college set YA, and it's brutally honest about how isolating the transition can be. Cath does not wind up with the college experience she was expecting. Her fan fiction isn't appreciated in her creative writing class, her other classes are hard, and finding friend is harder. Feeling isolated from her family and confused by the future she thought she'd get and what she was experiencing, Cath has to go through some hard things her freshman year.

In the dorms over winter break, Marin has to confront her lingering grief and broken feelings with her best friend Mabel who has come to visit. This short, quiet book packs an emotional punch. 

So this technically breaks the rule. Jane is a senior in high school, but she's forced to finish the year at community college. She's tossed into the culture of college life a semester early. On top of exploring this new world, Jane also competes in a low budget (okay, no budget) reality series to win a used car. 

Beyond High School
While this book doesn't take place in college or deal with college stress, this story is set after high school and deals with lots of the same emotions. Annie and Clay have to deal with the entire world watching them navigate the very beginning of adulthood as they go on a national music tour. 

Upcoming College YA

Virtually Yours
This book, which gave me lots of Laura Jean vibes, takes place at NYU and revolves around a virtually reality facilitated love triangle. It's a super cute read that I'll be reviewing at the beginning of June. It hits shelves on June 4th. 

Rent a Boyfriend
This book was just announced (and isn't coming until fall of 2020) so I don't know a ton about it, but I do know it's a return to college YA by Gloria Chao, author of America Panda. All I can tell you for sure is that I'm beyond ready for it. 

Let me know in the comments if you know of or love any other college YA. I'm always looking for more!
If You Liked These Books...
Into YA with Lillian Clark: Here
Into YA with Erin Hahn: Here

Links of Interest:
All Our Broken Pieces: Review Here
Into YA with LD Crichton: Here
What's Coming Up In May: Here
Ship It: Review Here

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