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3.5 stars... OK but not great start for the college search
on July 24, 2012
"Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013" (808 pages) is a curious college-guidance/search book in my opinion. It lists the "best and most interesting" colleges in the country, about 300 out of 2,200 four year colleges in the US (and even some Canadian and British schools) are written up. According to the introduction, they were selected on the basis of academic quality, geographic diversity, a balance of public and private schools, and schools that are currently popular for certain programs (engineering and technical schools, religious emphasis, etc.). Being from Ohio, I look at the list of 12 schools that "made the cut" and inexplicably Xavier University (a fine Jesuit college here in Cincinnati) is left out of the book. Huh? While the descriptions give a good flavor of a particular college, there are essentials missing, such as the exact tuition/room/board (there is only a general 1 to 4 star rating on how expensive a college is, and even those are misleading, for example American University is listed merely as "moderately" expensive, whoa!). Also not helpful in my opinion is that the colleges are presented alphabetically, rather than by state, since most kids look at colleges in a particular state (usually their home state), although there is an index by state.
On the other hand, the descriptions of the schools are oftentimes right on point. Check the first sentence on American University (the college of my youngest): "If the odds to enter Georgetown are against you and you can't see yourself on GW's highly urban campus, welcome to American University." That is EXACTLY what happened to my daughter: not admitted to Georgetown, admitted to GW and AU, but turned off by GW's urban campus and instead charmed by American's idyllic campus, hence AU. The descriptions of the school my son attended are also on point.
When my daughter was simply looking to get basic information, she did not spend a lot of time with this book. As she narrowed her choices, she did read up more on her pool of colleges in this book. Bottom line: if you are at the very beginning of your college search, this is not the book to start with. For that I might instead suggest "The Complete Book of Colleges" issued by the Princeton Review. The "Fisk Guide to Colleges" is instead more helpful to get a second (or third) opinion once your child has narrowed down his/her selection of colleges of interest (assuming of course it made the cut of 300).