Guides to Higher Learning

Article excerpt

Finding the right fit between college-bound high schoolers and the nearly 3,000 institutions of higher learning in the United States is a complicated process.

During the past decade, there has been an explosion of college guides to help with these decisions. Nothing beats getting on campus to attend classes and soak up the atmosphere. But these guidebooks provide an avenue of entry for high schoolers who are beginning to plan their futures.

THE FISKE GUIDE TO COLLEGES 1994, by Edward B. Fiske (Times Books/Random House, 800 pp., $16). Edward Fiske, a former education editor for the New York Times, first published his guide in 1982, and it has since become a bestseller.

The new edition identifies 14 public colleges and universities that have high quality liberal-arts programs yet offer affordable tuitions.

Fiske reviews 315 of "the best and most interesting institutions in the nation." Each essay covers a range of issues including: academics, student makeup, financial aid, housing, food, social life, and extracurricular activities.

Colorful quotes from students and faculty flesh out the statistics. The colleges are ranked from inexpensive to very expensive and are given ratings from 1 to 5 in three areas: academics, social life, and quality of life.

THE INSIDER'S GUIDE TO THE COLLEGES 1994, compiled and edited by the staff of the Yale Daily News (St. Martin's Press, 736 pp., $14.99). Billed as "the only college guide written entirely by current students," this review's writers reveal a close connection to the college scene. Although nearly all these guides offer an advice section, this one is particularly useful. Without being flip, the reviewers speak with the authority of someone who has recently been in the high schoolers' shoes.

Without attempting to rate the colleges, this guide offers insightful and wide-ranging essays on the characteristics of about 300 schools.

THE PRINCETON REVIEW STUDENT ACCESS GUIDE - THE BEST 286 COLLEGES 1994, by Tom Meltzer, Zachary Knower, Edward T. Custard, and John Katzman (Villard Books, 651 pp., $17). Although exhaustively researched, this guide has a flip, sarcastic tone. It boasts of surveying 40,000 college students in the largest national opinion poll of college students. …