According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average undergraduate tuition at private four-year institutions has soared 150% in the last 10 years, to nearly $30,000 per year. Evan Goldstein of the Chronicle of Higher Education, when asked for a total annual figure, said that the number is “so vast we don't even have an estimate.” Let's all agree that college is a big investment and there's a lot at stake for for applicants to college and graduate school. Hence, the burning need for test prep and college admissions guides. Below, the major players share their thoughts on the market and how they intend to compete.

PETERSON'S/ARCO, Lawrenceville, N.J.BMOC: Del Franz, editor-in-chiefBREAD-AND-BUTTER BOOK OR SERIES: “There are two: the Master Series has over 60 titles for secondary, college, civil service, military and professional exams. It includes everything from Master the SAT to Master the AT-SAT [Air Traffic Selection and Training Test]. The other is Peterson's Directories. Peterson's publishes the most comprehensive, annually updated educational directories available. In addition to the flagship, Peterson's Four-Year Colleges, 30 other Peterson's directories will be published in 2007.”ANNUAL OUTPUT: 60—70 titlesWHAT'S NEW: “Coming in August, the Unzipped Guides. They're short, simple and easy to use, and they provide information for everything students forgot to learn in school. We're starting with five that all relate to communications skills. We plan to extend the series to job skills next year.”ONLINE STRATEGY: “We were just acquired by Nelnet last summer. With the support of Nelnet Enrollment Solutions, Peterson's data and content fuel leading college planning sites on the Internet for millions of education-seeking families. Our two main Web sites are and”CHANGES IN THE MARKET: “We see more pressure on students and parents, and they're seeking more books to get through the process. More anxiety and pressure also means that it's harder than ever for parents and students to work together. Peterson's new book, Winning the College Admission Game [Apr.] by Peter Van Buskirk, addresses this in an innovative way. It's a flip book with one side for the student and one side for the parent.”THE COLLEGE BOARD, New York, N.Y.

BMOC: Tom Vanderberg, senior editor
BREAD-AND-BUTTER BOOK OR SERIES: “The Official SAT Study Guide is our flagship publication and the number one bestseller in the category, but The College Handbook is entering its 67th year of publication on the heels of strong back-to-back sales growth over the last two seasons.”
ANNUAL OUTPUT: five test-prep guides and seven college guides
WHAT'S NEW: “Due to the success of last year's release of the first edition of The Official SAT Question of the Day Box Calendar, we are introducing a 2008 version. Also, last year we launched our newest series, which helps students prepare for the SAT subject tests.”
ONLINE STRATEGY: “The College Board's Web site,, is the premier destination for college-bound students. It provides a range of tools and resources for students, and our online strategy is to dovetail our publications with these resources. For example, buyers of The Official SAT Study Guide can obtain free online scoring and sample SAT essays.”
CHANGES IN THE MARKET: “Nationwide survey data show that parental involvement in the college planning process is growing, and students want more of it. Rising costs and increased competition are changing previously 'safe' public universities into 'reach' schools, causing all students, top and average, to cast a wider net of applications.”

BMOC: Karen Wolny, editorial director
BREAD-AND-BUTTER BOOK OR SERIES: “Our Success in 20 Minutes a Day series, which has sales of over a million.”
ANNUAL OUTPUT: 40 titles
WHAT'S NEW: “Express Review Guides, which help students acquire basic practical skills—in areas from algebra and basic math to grammar and writing—with fast, targeted lessons.”
ONLINE STRATEGY: “Our online programs are available in over 4,000 libraries and over 5,000 schools, and many of our books now contain a free online link to our site so readers can do practice exercises and take tests related to the books they purchased. This is a perfect marriage of print and online that enables a personalized learning experience.”
CHANGES IN THE MARKET: “Publishing books with online links to instantly scored tests with answer analysis. It will be interesting to see how Web 2.0 technologies may transform the learners' experience and expectations and how we will meet them.”

BMOC: Bob O'Sullivan, managing editor
ANNUAL OUTPUT: approximately 300 titles
WHAT'S NEW: “This year we're most excited about the release of our updated line of AP books, most of which will be available with brand-new CD-ROM software.”
ONLINE STRATEGY:“Our industry has seen a recent push toward solely Web-based technology. However, as an educational book publisher, we feel strongly that the best product for students preparing for important exams is a book that contains software that will allow the user to take sample tests on a laptop or home computer.”
CHANGES IN THE MARKET: “Clearly, today's student expects user-friendly electronic technology that will allow him or her to take timed sample tests under real testing conditions, receive clear and thorough answer explanations, receive a score and get insider tips.”
COLLEGE PROWLER, Pittsburgh, Pa.

BMOC: Luke Skurman, CEO
BREAD-AND-BUTTER BOOK OR SERIES: annual series of single-school college admission guides
ANNUAL OUTPUT: 250 college admission guides
WHAT'S NEW: “The updated Big Book of Colleges 2008 [Aug.] combines 250 of our school profiles into one book. This revises our rankings in 20 categories, from academics to dorm life to dating—all based on new student-written reviews about their colleges.”
ONLINE STRATEGY: “In March, we introduced a new, which offers free content from our 250 admissions guides on an interactive, searchable Web site, as well as additional content through an annual subscription. We also generate revenue through online ad sales and licensing agreements with BusinessWeek and other outlets.”
CHANGES IN THE MARKET: “Today's application process is about looking for the college that provides the best overall experience. To achieve the right fit, the marketplace is aggressively searching for in-depth coverage of all aspects of student life using guidebooks, Web sites, blogs and social networks.”

BMOC: Ellen Mendlow, publisher, test prep and education
BREAD-AND-BUTTER BOOK OR SERIES: “Our First Aid and McGraw-Hill's GED series.”
ANNUAL OUTPUT: More than 100 titles
WHAT'S NEW: “McGraw-Hill's MCAT by George Hademenos and the Educational Testing Service's Praxis: The Official Guide [Oct.].”
ONLINE STRATEGY:“McGraw-Hill has partnered with Peterson's to launch online support sites for our major test-prep titles; we're also exploring a broad range of digital opportunities, from e-books and iPods to online communities. We're looking forward to introducing products that integrate the best features each type of technology has to offer.”
CHANGES IN THE MARKET: “We're seeing one of the largest group of high school graduates in the history of North America coming up, and the first truly digital generation. There is also a tremendous growth in community college enrollments and an increase in both international and U.S.-based graduate exams taken abroad.”
SOURCEBOOKS, Naperville, Ill.

BMOC: Peter Lynch, editorial manager, trade
BREAD-AND-BUTTER BOOK OR SERIES: “The Fiske series, which includes the bestselling college guide on the market and the bestselling how-to-get-in guide.”
ANNUAL TITLE OUTPUT: 22 titles—five test prep, 16 college guides/general college info and one general study aid.
WHAT'S NEW: “A series with Dr. Gary R. Gruber, one of the leading gurus of test preparation, which begins this August with Gruber's Complete SAT Guide (formerly known as Gruber's Complete Preparation for the SAT).”
ONLINE STRATEGY: “Since we publish a number of individual authors as opposed to one brand, we have a variety of different Web sites and initiatives for our authors, depending on their content and strategies.”
CHANGES IN THE MARKET: “Students are applying to more schools than ever before, making college guides increasingly popular. Students are also discovering the value of authors who speak regularly with students and truly understand their needs.”

BMOC: Maureen McMahon, publisher
ANNUAL OUTPUT: approximately 90 titles
WHAT'S NEW: “In partnership with TokyoPop, in July we are publishing three SAT/ACT Vocabulary-Building Graphic Novels: Warcraft, Volume 1; Van Von Hunter; and Psy-Comm, Volume 1. Each features more than 300 SAT/ACT vocabulary words, with pronunciation, part of speech and a sample sentence.”
ONLINE STRATEGY: “The online components to our books allow us to give readers the latest information about test changes. For example, the Law School Admission Council provided details about changes to the June 2007 test in February, and we were able to offer the latest information instantly.”
CHANGES IN THE MARKET: “The biggest trend we've observed is the demand for nontraditional test prep, such as flashcards. Also, readers are very responsive to visually engaging material. Test prep doesn't have to consist of page after page of solid blocks of text. We're introducing more color, more visually engaging designs and interactive elements.”

BMOC: Greg Tubach, senior acquisitions editor
BREAD-AND-BUTTER BOOK OR SERIES: “We have three. Brevity is key when it comes to CliffsQuickReview, which is very backlist-driven. We have 16 titles in CliffsAP, and we have 48 titles in our overall CliffsTestPrep. Lately we've been focusing on teacher certification, and in September we have three CliffsTestPrep CSET books coming out for California certification. We also have a good list of CliffsTestPrep Praxis II books.”
ANNUAL OUTPUT: 20 titles
WHAT'S NEW: “One recent title, The Forensic Mission [Mar.] by E.K. Hein, is a stand-alone novel for high schoolers. We publish a couple of SAT novels, and it's a similar pedagogy. A student learns a subject, forensics, within the context of reading a novel.”
ONLINE STRATEGY: “We relaunched our Web site,, earlier this month. We know that students today are going online and expecting some content to be free. Our strategy is to get them to the site and let them know how many CliffsNotes are available and to upsell them. On the site, most our books have PDFs that can be downloaded as well.”
CHANGES IN THE MARKET: “In my mind, the test-prep market is very steady right now. The AP program is reaching more people by extending into rural districts. And the SAT is firmly entrenched. You don't hear grumbling from California like you did a few years ago.”

BMOC: Publisher Tom Russell
BREAD-AND-BUTTER BOOK OR SERIES: “In the beginning, it was our SAT guide, but it's now the entire line of college admission [SAT, ACT, AP] test guides that constitutes our biggest strength.”
ANNUAL TITLE OUTPUT: 55—31 test-prep, 19 college/graduate school guides and five career books.
WHAT'S NEW: “College Navigator [July] has 282 original college lists that cover academics, sports, admissions, campus life—everything from 'Schools with great honors programs' and 'Top schools for (70) majors' to wow lists such as 'Schools with planetaria' or 'Schools at which McKinsey recruits.' My favorite: 'Schools offering free-trade coffee in the dining hall.' ”
ONLINE STRATEGY: “Our books capitalize on the great promotion, publicity and 'value adds' for readers at, including online surveys, test updates and extra practice tests for book buyers.”
CHANGES IN THE MARKET:“The 'A's—APs, ACT and applications for college admission—are all way up.”

BMOC: Laurie Barnett, editor-in-chief
BREAD-AND-BUTTER BOOK OR SERIES: “Our SparkNotes Guide to the SAT is second only to the College Board in terms of sales at B&N. Our AP Power Packs—a multi-component kit with essential study tools, including a book of practice tests, flashcards, diagnostic software and laminated SparkCharts—are also flying off the shelves.”
ANNUAL OUTPUT: 35—50 titles
WHAT'S NEW: “We're really excited to enter the grad test-prep market with SparkNotes Guide to the New LSAT [June]. Along with questions from real tests and guidance from an LSAT expert, we think this is the strongest LSAT book out there. Following shortly will be SparkNotes guides to both the GRE and GMAT.”
ONLINE STRATEGY: “We were the first to offer literature guides along with diagnostic test prep for free on the Internet, in 1999. Eventually a community developed at Now we have more than six million users and get 70 million hits a month. Although we have all our books online for free, students still want the printed book. It's counterintuitive, but it works as a promotion.”
CHANGES IN THE MARKET: “In April, the New York Times reported that Harvard and Yale turned down thousands of students with perfect SAT scores. The competition for college admissions has reached unprecedented highs. Taking the right AP and SAT subject tests, along with scoring high on the SAT and ACT, has become more important than ever.”