Book Review: College Bound and Gagged

There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years.  We’ve offered some lists of recommended reading, and there is something for everyone. Check out our Resources and Tools page for suggestions.

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.

In this review we’re taking a look at the book College Bound and Gagged: How to Help Your Kid Get into a Great College Without Losing Your Savings, Your Relationship, or Your Mind by Nancy Berk.  This book manages to find the combination of a lighthearted look at the college process and serious advice that will make the process more manageable.

In College Bound and Gagged, Nancy Berk relates many of her own experiences as a parent surviving the college admissions process, and many parents will identify with the stories she relates.  Many parents may be relieved to recognize that many of the scenes taking place in their own homes are not unique, but part of a greater drama occurring all around the country.  The personal nature of Berk’s stories, and the humor with which she tells them, will appeal to readers.

However, perhaps two of the greatest strengths of this book are the short quotes by many college experts and the many ”Lists of 5″ peppered throughout the book.  Hearing stories from the author is reassuring, but hearing from experts adds credibility to the author’s opinions.  The short lists of 5 tips on various topics are a quick and direct way to give parents insight into ideas and their own ”to do” lists.   Lists cover the range of such topics as 5 Things That’ll Drive You Crazy, 5 Panic Busters, 5 Dates to Record and Flag and 5 Conversation Starters.

We particularly like the author’s attitude that the college search and selection process ”should always be a student-driven process. . . As a parent, you need to be an educator . . . you need to keep your own agenda in check and guide your teen when necessary.”  This approach in College Bound and Gagged echoes our philosophy at College Parent Central that parents have a new role as a coach on the sideline of the student’s college experience.

Although it appears early in the book, one piece of advice from the author may sum up the essence of her book, ”Batten down the hatches, choose your battles wisely, and try like crazy to be supportive.”  Good advice.  We recommend this book for a lighthearted, but valuable resource for parents in the midst of the college bound process.


About the author:

Nancy Berk is a clinical psychologist and award-winning humorist in addition to being an author.  She has been spotlighted in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, CNN, MSN, and several other magazines. A blogger for The Huffington Post, USA Today College, and MORE Magazine, she also won the 2010 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.  She has appeared on television and radio and hosts two podcasts: Whine at 9 and College Mom Minute.  Nancy and her husband are the parents of a college graduate and a college freshman.  You may find her blog on


What the author has to say about the book:

”When my older son began his college search, I was shocked to discover that, even as a clinical psychologist and a former admissions committee member, I was as panicked as the rest of the frantic parent pack.  By the time my younger son joined the party, it was clear to me that parents needed strategy AND humor to keep smiling through the process.  That’s why I wrote College Bound and Gagged.

If you need the inside scoop on how to get the job done, but don’t have time for 300 pages of dry facts, or you’re searching for a little comic relief when it seems like there’s nothing to laugh about, you’re in the right place.  College Bound and Gagged is the straight-talking survival guide for anyone who needs to rein in their high school student or the crazy process.”

College Bound and Gagged tackles procrastination, confusing procedures, competitive parents, standardized test anxiety (especially yours!), campus tour trauma, admissions office disasters, and all the other bumps on the road to higher education . . . this book is the prescription for every family on the college journey.”


What others have to say about the book:

College Bound and Gagged is a great collection of tips and wisdom to equip any adult who lives with a teenager going through what’s known as “the college process.” Clearly, Nancy has terrific insight into the nature of the beast–er, I mean, teenager, and her candid observations and suggestions will help many a parent or guardian transform what might be stressful into something fun. Read the book in any order you like; its mosaic structure lends itself well to the quick flashes of help she consistently offers. A great read!”

John Carpenter, Educational Consultant

”Nancy Berk whimsically walks the reader through the college application and admission process. This is an ideal book for parents who are part of a competitive suburban culture and want to facilitate their teen’s college admissions efforts. Berk emphasizes the importance of allowing students to drive the search and application process. She also suggests ways that parents can guide their children to successes.

The book is full of light hearted stories of Berks of triumphs and failures as a mother of college bound teens and also includes references to other books and web sites that could be helpful for parents. Thematically, the book emphasizes the student driven approach as well as honesty and openness throughout process.

The one drawback of College Bound and Gagged is its limited audience. Many of the humorous elements of the books will fail to register with parents with middling (or lower) incomes.”

                    Jeremy Bohonos, M.A., Academic and Career Advisor, IUPUI Division of Continuing Studies

College Bound and Gagged is a great college companion for parents who need guidance and humor during the college search process!”, a leading college search site

Note: Some links in our post are for affiliate products. If you use our links, College Parent Central receives a small percentage of your purchase price. This does not change the cost to you.  We think it’s only fair to let you know that.

Related Posts:

Parenting College Students: Recommended Reading List

Parenting College Students: More Recommended Reading

Parenting College Students: Still More Recommended Reading

Reading List: When Your College Student Graduates

Recommended Reading for College Graduates

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