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Best 357 Colleges, 2005 Edition Paperback – Aug 17 2004
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About the Author
The Princeton Review is the fastest growing test-preparation company in the country, with over 60 franchise offices in the nation. Each year, we help more than 2 million students prepare for college, grad school, professional licensing exams, and successful careers.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This guide book is much better than:
1) The Fiske Guide to Colleges - this book says something good about every college and rarely anything bad. So, after reading the book, you still don't know which schools to choose from. This makes it is very hard for a prospective student to distinguish one school from another.
2) The US News & World Report College guide - the rankings and ratings are done by college presidents and professors. Since when are college presidents heavily involved in academics? They are hired to do administrations and fund raising, not academics. If anything, they only have vague and general ideas of how other schools are. It is ridiculous to ask them to rank and rate other colleges. Much more, where are the inputs from the college students? Their experiences are the ones that count and should be a big part of any rankings and ratings.
3) Choosing the Right College - this book focuses on the curriculum and political atmosphere of each campus. But it is the outcome of an education that is important, not the curriculum or the political atmosphere.
4) College Board guide - this book contains only statistics and percentages - it contains no descriptions about colleges. It provides no critiques for colleges.
The descriptions in this book for each college are accurate and to the point. It relies primarily on inputs from the students. While this is very valuable, it could be greatly improved if feedbacks from the professors are also included.
There is only one guide book that is better than this book:
Getting into the Right College - by Edward B. Fiske and Bruce G. Hammond.
First, what does an "admissions selectivity" rating of four stars mean? To many it means that the school has a four star reputation and admission to a "four-star" school will open doors to grad schools and job opportunities. To others it means that their sons and daughters who don't have A averages ought to think of applying elsewhere.
The problem is that schools like Harvard and Elon College both receive four stars. No one is saying that Elon is anything but a good school, but it's a bit misleading if it makes students think their shot at getting into Elon is only a few little points better than getting into Harvard. Then there's the problem of interpreting selectivity. Princeton Review says that the percentage of admitted students who enroll at George Washington is low while Millsaps College has a high percentage of acceptees who enroll. Meanwhile, according to their own statistics GW has an acceptee enrollment rate of 32% while Millsaps is at 30%. What's up with that? Barron's does a much better job with accurate, understandable selectivity.
As far as awarding academic stars, it's very interesting to note the pronounced differences between public and private universities. If you analyze Princeton Review's findings, your conclusion will be "you get what you pay for." Students apparently get lost in the shuffle at big public universities and teachers are largely inaccessible. A three-star academic rating for a public university is really quite excellent while three stars is a bit low for a private school.
However, student opinion skews the ratings against schools known for engineering and sciences. Very high-powered schools like CalTech, Case Western, Johns Hopkins and Cooper Union all received only three stars despite very favorable student-teacher ratios and very low levels of classes taught by TA's (if any). Are these low ratings the result of having many foreign professors who are difficult to understand? Could it be that students were forced to go into the sciences by their parents and didn't really want to go to CalTech in the first place? Princeton Review doesn't do enough to explain why students might feel less than fully satisfied.
Another problem is their sidebar of competing schools. If you look at George Washington University, the sidebar will tell you that students offer prefer Boston University over GW. Then if you look at BU's, it says that students often prefer GW. Can you have it both ways? Much more confusing is the phrase "students rarely prefer" because it can mean two very different things. It could mean that there is heavy overlap in applicant pools, but student rarely pick the second school or it could mean there is rarely an overlap, but if there is, the student will usually pick the second school.
Princeton Review is better than a lot of the guides when it comes to finances. Some books, such as Fiske, don't mention specific tuition costs. Princeton Review analyzes each school's financial aid policies pretty well. Princeton Review does not match Fiske when it comes to information on each school's strongest departments.
The book also does a better job than many at showing student perspective which is helpful, but readers should remember that college students are often world champions at sarcasm. I think students would prefer this book over something dry that only presents facts, but this book pays too much heed to its own opinion to be considered truly unbiased.
Away from the lack of realistic and necessary criticism, I still enjoyed the book. SO full of information about so many school, and a very easy and even fun book to follow. All of the school's contact information is in there, along with all of their application requirements and deadlines. Costs, demographics, most popular majors, and even information about the amount of people that smoke, drink, study, participate in sports is made very visible in The Best 357 Colleges. The Best 357 Colleges is great guide to basic facts and information about colleges and would definitely be a great guide to prospective college students trying to gather as much information as they can before the approaching application deadlines.
This book rates college on academic as well as social factors so you can see if you fit in to that campus. You can read about dorms, party atmosphere, and what current students are like.
One feature that I felt was great was... "if you like a certain college you may want to look at"... This allows you to add new schools to consider.
My high school daughter continually used this book to make her choice. I highly reccomend this book!
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