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A Useful Guide To A Small Number Of Colleges
on July 7, 2013
Soaring college costs (now exceeding $250,000 in tuition and fees over four years at some private colleges) make selecting a college that most important investment decision many people will ever make.
Students and parents need to do as much research as possible to select the "right" school...the college that is the best fit for the needs and personality of a given student. The "Fiske Guide" is one of the best resources available. NOTE: The 2015 edition will be released in July 2014.
Unlike the free College Board website that provides a massive amount of objective data such as the number of students enrolled and tuition and fees, Fiske seeks to describe the personality of each college. The sort of person who would thrive at Skidmore College would most likely be miserable at Baylor University, and vice versa.
Fiske helps to clarify where a college lands on the spectrum of "serious intellectual environment" versus "Animal House". The Tanabe college guide also focuses on the personality of each college and seems both more up to date and more honest than Fiske. Tanabe discusses strong points and weak points of each college, while Fiske tends to ignore weak points.
It is impossible to visit every college so Fiske helps you select the ten or so schools that are the best fit for a given student so that you know which colleges to visit.
A major weakness of "Fiske" is that hundreds of very good colleges are not included. You also should buy the Princeton Review college guide and Tanabe's "Best College" guide. Between them, these three guides cover over 400 colleges and provide you with different viewpoints regarding the 200 most selective national colleges and universities.
Cost/Financial Aid: Fiske provides cost and financial aid information that is a year or two out of date. College websites provide current information about costs and financial aid.
At most of the "Top 100" private colleges and universities, the MAJORITY of students receive grants and scholarships averaging around $20,000 to $30,000 per year. A family with an income of $100,000 a year can get significant aid, and a family with an income of $200,000 a year with two or three children in college may also be eligible for grants.
Most colleges have greatly upgraded their websites. Many colleges now provide "video tours" and detailed admissions, academic, and "college life" information that goes far beyond what Fiske includes. College websites have information on "Early Decision I" and "Early Decision II" options that most books ignore. At the 50 top colleges and universities, "Early Decision" options are used to select a third or half of the entering class.
The College Board website provides FREE profiles of every college including admissions information and cost information.