Q. What makes this book different from other college guides?
A. No other college guide has so many extras – and such important ones! Two of the major differences are our unique student survey and the ranking lists we report using that survey. We ask students (126,000 students for this edition!) to rate their schools on dozens of topics and report on their experiences at them. That student feedback is the sole basis for our 62 unique ranking lists, each one naming the top 20 schools in the category. Topics range from financial aid, campus services, and facilities, to how LGBT friendly (or not) the college is. We also tally rating scores for each school in the book on such issues as Admission Selectivity, Fire Safety and Green Living – all based on data from our surveys of administrators at the schools.
Q. Why "378" colleges?
A. The Best 375 Colleges might have a catchier ring -- but we at Princeton Review don't start with a fixed number for the title, then "back-in" schools to make that number work. The number of colleges that we profile in the book is based on how many schools actually meet our criteria each year as "best."
Q. How do you pick these "best" colleges?
A. Three factors influence our college choices. First, we only include colleges in the book which we consider to have outstanding academics. For that, we review the data we collect about their program offerings, majors, faculty, and student body. We also consider recommendations from our staff (collectively, they visit hundreds of colleges a year), our 35-member National College Counselor Advisory Board and college advisors we know. Second, we look at what the students attending the colleges tell us about their schools. (That matters a lot to us, as it would to applicants visiting a school -- and even more so to those that can't visit a campus.) Third, we keep a balanced representation of colleges in the book by region, size, character and type. Schools are added (and are dropped from the book) every year.
Q. What's new in this edition?
A. We added a timely new ranking list, "Best Science Lab Facilities," as well as five colleges to this edition: LeMoyne College (NY), Marquette University (WI), Stephens College (MO), Trinity College (Ireland), and the University of Texas at Dallas. Of course, we've also updated our school profiles, ranking lists, rating scores, and other info in the book.
Q. Do you have information in this edition about how to pay for college?
A. Yes. Among the several financial aid resources you'll find only in our book:
1. Financial Aid Rating scores for all 378 schools.
Our scores are measures (from 60 to 99) of how generous each school is with financial aid and how satisfied its students are with the aid they receive. Eleven colleges in the book earned our highest Financial Aid Rating score (99) and nine schools in the book are tuition-free.
2. A"150 Best Value Colleges for 2013" list.
We identify 75 public and 75 private colleges as "best values" based on 30 factors we analyze covering academics, cost, and financial aid.
3. A "Great Financial Aid" ranking list.
We report the top 20 schools in the book at which students were happiest with their financial aid. We also have an opposite list entitled, "Financial Aid Not So Great."
4. Advice: "26 Tips for Getting Scholarships, Grants, and Financial Aid, and Paying Less for College" by Kalman A. Chany, author of our book, Paying for College Without Going Broke.
Q. Your rankings get a lot of news coverage when the book comes out – you must be pretty excited about that.
A. Yes! People visit our website to check the college rankings all year long. In addition, leading figures in fields from politics to entertainment have referenced our rankings. Among them are former President Bill Clinton (at a speech at DePaul), former Vice President Dick Cheney (at commencement at BYU), Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and NBC’s "Saturday Night Live Weekend Update" host, Seth Myers.
Our rankings have also been used in quiz questions on national shows (NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," "Cash Cab," and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"), and as the subjects of comic strips (Doonesbury® and Tank McNamara®).
Q. What advice do you have for students applying to colleges and their parents?
A. We asked about 15,000 applicants and parents of applicants who completed our 2013 "College Hopes and Worries Survey" what they'd advise this year's applicants. "Start Early" about half of them stated. "Start the whole process a year earlier than you think" one parent said. A student added, "As a matter of fact, start NOW." To that sound advice, I add these suggestions:
1. Work hard. Get the best grades and test scores that you can. They are important for getting into colleges and getting financial aid/scholarships. Also take as many AP courses as you can.
2. When winnowing your list of colleges, don't choose schools only for their academics. Find out about each school's campus culture, student body, majors, and city/town. Your college has to be a good fit for you.
1. Relax. The majority of students will get in to their first or second choice college and will get some financial aid. Be supportive of your child, and when it comes to dealing with the schools, let him/her request info, make calls and write letters, etc.
2. If financial aid will be essential, learn all you can about the FAFSA, (Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a form all aid applicants must submit), a year before you will fill it out. The FAFSA is dense: it has 100+ questions. Your answers will determine your "EFC" (Estimated Family Contribution) – what the colleges will expect you pay. Our book, Paying For College Without Going Broke, offers strategic guidance on completing the FAFSA in order to maximize one's eligibility for financial aid.