The Bottom Line
- Well-written descriptions capture the flavor of the featured schools
- Manageable size with 300+ profiles and 864 pages
- Good variety of schools - top tier, women's colleges, religious affiliations, and so on
- Useful indexes by state, price, and professional programs
- Quick and easy self-assessment for figuring out personal preferences
- Little data on costs and financial aid
- Student contributors don't always provide fully accurate information
- Little representation of colleges from many states
- 300+ colleges profiled
- 1,000 to 2,500 word essay for each college
- Data presents middle SAT and ACT scores, acceptance rates, enrollment, retention rates, and strongest programs
- Ratings of each college's academics, social scene, and quality of life
- $23.99, but often discounted several dollars
Guide Review - Fiske Guide to Colleges 2012
Don't expect a ton of objective data in the Fiske Guide to Colleges. The lover of numbers would do better with the U.S. News and World Report Ultimate College Guide or Peterson's Four-Year Colleges. That said, numbers rarely tell the story of a school effectively. The essays in the Fiske Guide employ both subjective and objective information to capture the real "feel" of a school. Since picking the perfect college is more about a personality match than anything numerical, Fiske's efforts to capture the personalities of the schools should be applauded.
The book does have a few shortcomings. With over 310 colleges profiled, a couple thousand 4-year schools get no coverage. The Fiske selections reveal a bias towards east and west coast colleges. For students set on certain states (like Kansas and Nebraska), the book will be of limited use. You'll find a long list of colleges for states like Massachusetts and California.
A final minor point -- the reliance on student surveys can introduce a few errors. Students don't always understand how their colleges operate, how they are staffed, or what the overall social, academic, or financial picture looks like.
For most prospective college students, the Fiske Guide will be $20 well spent.