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College Search Blog Series #3: 3 College Reference Guides to Help You Build Your College List

Here are some of our favorite reference guides as you begin to build your college list. These books provide valuable information on various aspects of the undergraduate experience such as academics, student life, school culture, housing, affordability and more. Use these reference books to look up individual schools and we encourage you to explore and read about colleges that may not be on your current college list.

On a side note, when a college reference guide or website lists the most popular majors, it can provide a positive perspective for a student. However, please understand that it does not mean that the less popular majors tend to be of poorer academic quality but rather just smaller departments. Smaller departments can equal more opportunities with faculty.

The College Finder: Choose The RIght School That’s Right For You by Steven R. Antonoff, Ph.D.

The College Finder is a great quick resource guide when you want to find a list of schools that match a particular fit factor that you have. This book includes hundreds of pages of college listings based on unique criteria. Here are a few examples of lists you’ll find:

  • Colleges with Active Honors Codes
  • American Colleges with International Campuses
  • Colleges with Unique Calendars
  • Colleges with Excellent Writing Programs
  • Colleges with Comprehensive Debate Programs
  • Colleges for the Friendly Student
  • Colleges That Offer a Fast Track to a Career
  • Colleges with Comprehensive Programs at a Fair Price

Fiske Guide to Colleges by Edward Fiske

The Fiske Guide does a wonderful job digging into the school culture of over 400 U.S. colleges and universities.  When reading about a college in Fiske, you will gain a sense of what the students and academics are like. Fiske does not sugar coat the school, but rather shows all aspects of the current school climate. Since it goes into the nitty-gritty of the school, you can get a better understanding of whether it is a good social and academic fit or not. Overlap schools are listed, so you can review suggestions of schools with similar environments. The academic overview that Fiske provides can help you to understand what is required to study (i.e. general education requirements) and discovering the academic culture. For example, if the school is more or less academically rigorous and how approachable the faculty can be. It covers the typical types of students that attend, for example intellectually-minded, mainly wealthy students, heavy Greek life culture, and so much more. Housing and campus life is addressed, so you can get a better understanding of what it is like to live there. Also, Fiske reviews the off-campus experience, which can be helpful to understand what the area is like. Fiske provides a pretty comprehensive description of the schools and it is definitely one of the first go-to references when researching colleges.

The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges by The Yale Daily News

The Insider’s Guide provides a unique overview of hundreds of U.S. colleges and universities. It highlights the interesting pieces of an individual school and why it makes them different. Also, the book provides more insider admissions and application advice for each college. This is another reference guide that does not sugar coat the school but rather addresses both the pros and cons. It covers information about housing, academics, and social life. One of the perks of this book is that it breaks down statistics such as the number of applicants, percent accepted, male-female percentage, graduation rate, percent of in- and out-of-state students. At the beginning of the book, it provides general college admissions advice about college visits, interviews, testing, applications, college fit, cost of college, etc. Also, they provide definitions of admissions terminology, brief college fit quiz, and more. The Insider’s Guide is a great source and we encourage students to use it in tandem with the other suggestions above.

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