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The Unofficial, Unbiased Guide to the 328 Most Interesting Colleges: 2004 Edition    by Trent Anderson & Seppy Basili order for
Unofficial, Unbiased Guide to the 328 Most Interesting Colleges
by Trent Anderson
Order:  USA  Can
Kaplan, 2003 (2003)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Anise Hollingshead

It's that frantic time of year again in the lives of seniors and their parents, the hectic search for the perfect college choice. This is a daunting task, as there are so many colleges and universities that may only differ from each other in small ways. Of course, a plethora of advice books suggest how to pick the right college, get into said college, win scholarships, write essays, etc.. Kaplan has just released another college advice manual, one that focuses more on the colleges themselves, rather than on how to apply. The Unofficial Biased Guide to the 328 Most Interesting Colleges 2004 Edition is an informal survey of some of the best colleges in the United States.

There are two pages on each college or university considered, with icons signifying characterisics such as being over- or under-rated, chosen by top students in the class, having a party life, being trendy, having beautiful campuses, being hidden treasures, having the best bang for the buck, attracting nerds, etc.. There are also statistics on academics, information on campus racial makeup, financial aid, professor/student ratios and so on. The majority of what's presented falls into three categories: Inside the Classroom, Campus Environment, and Student Life.

Inside the Classroom discusses the academic side of the college. Here students can learn about the rigor of the courses, the type of majors offered, and what is expected of students academically. Campus Environment focuses on housing and appearance, plus surrounding areas, and Student Life features tidbits on activities, sports, greek life and general recreation. The informal tone is provided by the personal comments that make up a large part of the content - information contributed by students, guidance counselors, professors and graduates.

Also, the two guys who wrote the book have a comment box with their final take on the school, rather like a cross between Siskel & Ebert and Wayne & Garth (Wayne's World SNL). Most of the information presented is useful in that it offers a look at the college from the student's and guidance counselor's perspective, rather than the perspective that statistics or ratings alone give. The size, tone, atmosphere, majority political viewpoint, night life, sports, recreation and class ratios are the main issues, important ones in helping students decide which college may be the right fit for them.

As a parent of a senior, I can say that this is an exhausting process! Researching schools, filling out applications, and finding a fine line between parental advice and nagging is extremely fatiguing. My daughter and I found this book helpful in that it presented some information that is important to her, and not commonly found on the Internet. We did question the helpfulness of the Student Life sections, which seemed to focus more on drinking parties, rather than on clubs, sports, and other available activities. But of course, this too is an element of college culture, of interest to many prospective students.

We liked the way the information was organized, and the author's Introductions contained helpful general advice. Wofford is on our list of possibles, and we discovered information on it that was new to us, like the fact that almost half of the students belong to some type of fraternity or sorority. Overall, The Unofficial Biased Guide to the 328 Most Interesting Colleges 2004 Edition, with its inside look at the actual colleges, is a good, helpful manual. It nicely rounds out other how-to books that focus more on the process of applying.

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