Book Review: The Best 373 Colleges

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There are sure things that take place every August and I’m not talking about students heading off to college. Rather, The Princeton Review faithfully releases an update of its “best colleges” guide and that annual update features more colleges than the previous year’s edition.

The Best 373 Colleges,” is out and this edition (2010, Random House/Princeton Review Books) includes two more schools — Austin College in Sherman, Texas and University of Missouri-Columbia. Go back a number of years, 1998 for example, and 311 colleges were featured. The 2011 edition marks 18 years of “best colleges” updates and I just happened to receive a copy for my perusal.

Best Colleges

So why might you be interested in this book anyway? That’s a good question considering that there are thousands of colleges and universities across the United States and Canada. The Princeton Review limits their selection to four-year schools although Deep Springs College, a two-year institution, is included. That California school limits itself to 26 students who enjoy a full expenses paid education. Importantly, students usually transfer to Ivy League and other top educational institutions once they have completed their studies.

The Princeton Review bases its school selection on internal data which reveals the schools students are considering and other factors including reputation in academic circles and their own research and interviews to determine which schools to include. Not every school with an outstanding academic pedigree is included — administrators must agree to allow the Princeton Review to conduct anonymous surveys of its students. Most do, but some do not.

And it is those 122,000 student surveys which tells the reader a lot about each school. Certainly, information about student enrollment, academics, admissions ratings and financial aid ratings are very helpful, but what sets The Best 373 Colleges apart is the input received from currently enrolled students themselves. Think about it: the material students get from the schools can be beneficial, but that information doesn’t include unbiased reports from students.

Informative Lists

That means in addition to sharing detailed information about each school, this reference book also makes good use of “Top 20” rankings and lists including the following:

  • What school has the least accessible professors? That would be the University of Toronto with Rutgers (New Brunswick) second.
  • Who has the best campus food? That’s Bowdoin College. On the opposite end of the food spectrum is the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
  • Naturally, Columbia University, Barnard College, Eugene Lang College and New York University rank as having the best college town as all four schools are located in the city that never sleeps — New York City. Pity the students who attend Tuskegee University — they give their school the lowest marks when it comes to college town life.

College Ads

One addition to this edition are the advertisements from 15 colleges and universities. Those full-page ads are stuck in the very back of the book and are from the schools themselves. The Princeton Review is quick to point out that the schools with ad copy are not chosen based on a financial contribution or due to their advertising. The “School Says…” section starts on page 819, after the reviews.

My favorite section of the book can be found on page 52 — the 100 best value colleges for 2010. Two lists of 50 private and 50 public colleges and universities are featured including some of the most expensive schools in the land. What makes each of these a value? That would be in student aid especially if you’re eligible to receive the funding necessary to help contain your college costs.

Adv. — Is college costing you more than what you can afford? Sallie Mae can help, by providing a Smart Option Student Loan designed to close your financing gap.

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Categories: Book Reviews