12 Books To Read Before Heading Off To College

Some books just manage to stick with you. They have passages, or single lines, that are seared into your mind. You finish the last page with a pang of sadness, and inevitably end up rereading them time and time again. Often, these are the books that help us through times of transition – like the transition from high school to college.

Everyone has a book like that. I asked 12 college grads what book they would recommend to someone preparing for college, and these were their answers. If you’re looking for some inspiration, motivation, or simply a great summer reading list, this is for you.


“Girl, Stop Apologizing” by Rachel Hollis

“’Girl, Stop Apologizing’ is a must-read for any young woman entering adulthood and learning their independence. As women, we so easily apologize for every little thing and a lot of times we apologize for the aspirations and goals we have. Rachel Hollis reminds you to take ownership of your goals and your dreams and to be unapologetically proud of them.” –Alexis


“Principles” by Ray Dalio

“In ‘Principles,’ Dalio encourages you, as the reader, to identify and write down the principles by which you want to live your life. Then, consult that list as you make decisions – big and small. In college, you’ll be faced with many decisions, and having a distilled list of principles to refer back to will hopefully encourage you to make decisions that serve those things that you’ve identified as the most important and result in better outcomes.” ­–Caroline


“Mindset” by Carol Dweck

“The most important input to success is your mindset. I learned this in college and read this book, and Carol Dweck has been proven right time and time again in my life during and after college. Being naturally smart/good/talented only gets you so far ­­– great effort gets you so much further!” –Emily


“Better Than Before” by Gretchen Rubin

“’Better Than Before’ is a great read for a time of transition. I read it between college and law school. It focuses on happiness and habits, and college is the first time many people are responsible for their own daily habits. It’s important to be mindful of habits like food choice, sleep patterns, and exercise when you head to college, and Better Than Before was a good prompt for self-reflection.” –Sarah


“Letters To A Young Poet” by R.M. Rilke

“This book helped me to become comfortable with discomfort; it taught me to encourage uncertainty in my life. Rilke’s view on solitude, pain, and fear pushes the reader to make space for the things that seem scary and dark, without seeming overly trite.” –Bailey


“Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert

“I love the book because it’s an exploration in self-discovery, and she finds herself in unexpected ways through things she doesn’t expect to have to struggle through, with a massive dose of self-reflection. It was one of those books I couldn’t put down no matter how much it made me cry.” –Amanda


“Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed

“I found ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ to be a read that offered compassion and comfort in a powerful way. It addressed issues that were easy to relate to or that provoked empathy through enlightening stories. I also liked that it’s a collection of short letters – because it made it easy to pick up whenever in need of some insight and connection on life’s toughest issues.” –Melissa


“Rising Strong” by Brené Brown

“’Rising Strong’ illustrates what I wish I had known much earlier in my life. It teaches bravery through the art of hilarious storytelling and shows how leaning into uncomfortable situations can be empowering. In a way, it showed me to turn the world I live in upside down and examine it through a different lens. I zoomed through this book and found myself nodding along, laughing out loud, and digesting pages left and right. I have since read it two more times! All of Brené Brown’s work is fantastic, but Rising Strong is my favorite.” –Beth


“The Untethered Soul” by Michael A. Singer

“Often times it’s hard to not be consumed in comparing yourself to others, judging others due to jealousy and fear of missing out – the FOMO can be so real. This book channels your thinking, dissects your thought process to get to the root and shed those toxic thoughts. It helped remind me to be in the present moment, thrive in my consciousness and try my best to be happy with me and only me. All the rest is just the ego trying to distract me!” –Sarah


“The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield

“’The War of Art,’ recommended to me first by my undergraduate fiction writing professor, was the first book I read that gave my creativity a set of rules that would keep me accountable and productive in my process. With the help of this book, I sort of figured out a lot of the simple truths underlying struggles all creative individuals face – which gave me comfort.” ­–Eric


“Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer

“I loved ‘Into The Wild’ because it showed someone following an unconventional path. I think for many of us, embarking upon a college degree, the steps feel fairly laid out – I’ll get this education and then a 9 to 5. The story of Chris McCandless is inspiring (and, to many, stupid) because he didn’t buy into the idea of what society expects us to do.” –Mackensie


“You Are A Badass” by Jen Sincero

“I’d recommend it because it’s a great reminder that your mindset and view of yourself can change your life and success and it’s encouraging along the way.” –Samantha