Monday, August 04, 2014

Fiske's Guide to Colleges 2015

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Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015
My oldest is about to enter junior year of high school, so we're increasingly focused on his future. Most likely he's headed to college, though some of his co-workers and students this summer encouraged him to follow the money and put his tech skills to use right out of high school. For now, however, college is the thing.

Susan Goodkin, the college consultant I've been featuring on my G+ Hangouts, mentioned that she's a fan of the Fiske Guides, so when I was offered a chance to review the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015, I jumped.

I love this book. It's going to be my go-to resource for quite some time. When I mentioned this to a friend she replied, "Uh, doesn't every college have a website with much of the information that's in the book?" Well, yes. And also no because the book provides additional insights.

I like this 820-page paperback book. I like that I can make notes and dog-ear pages and stick in post-its if I want to flag something for my son or husband. I like the quotes from students. I like that it feels more objective than a given school's website. (In other news, I'm pretty sure Georgia Tech is off our list.)

But mostly I like that so much information is right there on the pages before me. When I go to college websites, I wind up having about 6 tabs per school open so I can look at an overview, requirements, majors, AP score acceptance, financial information, net price calculator, etc. It's a frenzy of information overload!We're just dipping our toes in and getting a feel for things, this book is a valuable first stop.

The Fiske Guide provides overviews of "more than 300 of the country's best and most interesting colleges and universities." As well as a handful Canadian, British, and Ireland. It contains an index of colleges by state and country, index by price, a list of "Best Buys" and several pages on how to use the guide I t also includes a list of ACT/SAT optional schools, a list of colleges that are known for working with students with learning disabilities and it closes with one of my favorite pieces, a pledge for parents, which is more like a serenity prayer for parents of high school seniors  and worth the $24 cost of the book.

The Guide also contains a brief survey to help students pin down what they might want in a school. Yes, we've asked these same questions and yes, he can find a similar checklist via resources at the high school, but I might actually get my son to complete this one.

He's got mail.
The Guide was born as a way to "cut through all the hype that was coming from the colleges" in the late 1980s. There's as much hype as ever, but today's students are pickier about their distractions. My son has a pile dozens (possibly hundreds) of postcards and brochures that were cluttering up our mailbox and are now cluttering up his room. If he's bothered to read more than five of them, I'd be surprised. His email inbox is similar.And I'm getting more and more curious about a certain school simply because they are relentless in their emails to me.

In its attempt to focus on what's important, Fiske profiles colleges with summary paragraph followed by a flowing narrative for each school. It will also list compare schools or "overlaps," which can help point families toward other schools to explore. And, of course, each school has a sidebar noting:

  • location (ubrban, suburban, etc.)
  • whether it's public or private
  • total enrollment
  • breakdown of male/female
  • ACT/SAT score ranges
  • percent of returning freshman and percent of students that graduate in six(!!) years
  • social life
  • a debt rating indicating average undergraduate principle borrowed to graduate
  • and more! 

The Guide does not have a line item for campus safety, but I expect they will add one in the next year or two. Sign of the times, right?

As I mentioned, we're at the start of of our search. If you have a favorite resource for learning about colleges, please share!


Shawn said...


Thank you for your thoughtful review of our guide! I laughed when you described our pledge as "a serenity prayer for parents of high school seniors."

I'm thrilled that you and your son are finding it helpful.

Best wishes,

Shawn Logue
Managing Editor, Fiske Guide to Colleges

Daisy said...

Wow. This is such a huge decision and such a lengthy and in-depth process! I remember vividly one question my daughter asked. "Mom, if I realize I chose wrong, how soon can I transfer?" She had faced a difficult choice between schools, and I told her she could transfer as soon as January if she wanted.
Good luck to you and your son! It's an exciting and scary time.