Fiske Guide to Colleges 1998: The Highest-Rated Guide to the Best and Most Interesting Colleges in America

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The only college guide to get a top rating from The American Bookseller and USA Today, The Fiske Guide To Colleges features inside information on over 300 colleges around the country, highlighting the 42 schools that are 1998's "Best Buys" in college education.
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Overview

The only college guide to get a top rating from The American Bookseller and USA Today, The Fiske Guide To Colleges features inside information on over 300 colleges around the country, highlighting the 42 schools that are 1998's "Best Buys" in college education.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812929256
  • Publisher: Random House, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/12/1997
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 755
  • Product dimensions: 7.38 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.45 (d)

Interviews & Essays

On Tuesday, December 9th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Edward Fiske to discuss THE FISKE GUIDE TO COLLEGES.


Moderator: Hello, Mr. Fiske, and welcome! How are you tonight?

Edward B Fiske: I'm fine and looking forward to an interesting session!


Paul from Morris Plains, NJ: How important are SATs weighing these days on a student's transcript? Do you consider the SATs to be one of the most important factors in getting into a college?

Edward B Fiske: Paul, in the words of one college admissions officer: The SATs are probably more important than we will admit but less important than you think they are. By far the most important element in your admissions portfolio is your high school transcript. It should show good grades but also that you are taking rigorous courses and stretching yourself. SAT scores will usually be in synch with your transcript. If they are lower than your grades, then you have a chance to explain why -- maybe you test poorly or had a headache on the day of the test. If they are higher than one would expect from your grades, then [admissions officers] will probably peg you as an "underachiever" and will not be terribly impressed. You should take the SATs seriously, but they are not the most important element by any means. And obviously the importance varies from college to college.


Harvey from Davis, CA: Do you look at U.S. News and World Report's list of the top schools? Do you consider that list to be an accurate gauge of a school's ranking?

Edward B Fiske: Harvey, I have no quarrel with the U.S. News statistics. I do have a problem with the way they are used. Actually, two problems. The first is that the important qualities about a school from the point of view of applicants are for the most part things that cannot be quantified -- much less plugged into a formula. In compiling THE FISKE GUIDE TO COLLEGES, we ask students at the 300-plus colleges in the book questions about academic pressure, relations with faculty, the kind of students who go there, and so forth. A very important question to ask when visiting a college, for example, is "Who will be teaching me as a freshman?" Or "Will I see full professors, or will I be getting teaching assistants?" These are the questions that one should be asking in comparing one school with another. The other problem with ranking schools 1-2-3 and so forth is that it ignores the question "For whom?" Not every bright student should go to Harvard. So it is impossible to say in the abstract that school A is better than schools B and C without reference to the particular students. Every school is a great place for some students and would be a terrible place for others.


Nash from Kentucky: How is this book different than the 1997 version? Do you make a lot of changes from year to year?

Edward B Fiske: Nash, the basic personality/character of schools does not change from year to year -- or even from decade to decade. But colleges are always adding and closing courses and programs, building new student centers, and so forth. That's why we think it's important to put out a new edition every year. The kind of experience students will have does change.


Amanda Berkes from Brattleboro: First, thanks for all of your help in this difficult decision! How did you get started in this project? How long have you been doing this?

Edward B Fiske: Amanda, I've been doing the book for 15 years, and I started it because at that time colleges were just beginning to do a lot of aggressive marketing, and I thought students and families needed a tool to help cut through the rhetoric coming from the institutions. Over the years the need seems to have become even greater.


Shawn Smith from NE: Do you have another profession besides putting together this fabulous guide? And, I'm interested where YOU went to college and what kind of studies you undertook.

Edward B Fiske: Shawn,I went to Wesleyan University in Connecticut and was an English major. I worked for The New York Times for 27 years, first as religion editor, then as education editor. I left the Times in 1991 to write a book about school reform in the U.S. at the K-12 level (SMART SCHOOLS, SMART KIDS) and also to write about education in developing countries. I spent a year working on education problems in Cambodia, and now, in addition to editing the college guide, I write on educational issues for organizations like UNESCO, the World Bank, and the Academy for Educational Development. In other words, I'm a journalist -- and THE FISKE GUIDE TO COLLEGES is a journalistic effort.


Rory from Florida: Hey Edward, I have two questions for you: 1) I am planning to work at Disney World when I grow older (going to operate those auto-animatronics). I am still in middle-school eighth grade, though, but I have a question. Where can some of those Disney colleges be located? 2) How do you overcome writer's block? Thanks a bunch!!!!

Edward B Fiske: Rory, I'm afraid I can't help much on the Disney colleges. As for the writer's block, I sometimes like to work on an editorial problem late in the day or at night and then sleep on it. I'll often awake with the problem solved. But remember, too, that writing is a job, and it's work. No writer can wait until he or she is "inspired" before settling down to work any more than a doctor, lawyer, or automobile mechanic could do the same. The more you do something, the more you learn tricks to make the job easier.


Brian from Bethleham, PA: How do you research for this book? Do you go on the road to different schools?

Edward B Fiske: Brian, I have visited scores of colleges, but the principal method for gathering information for THE FISKE GUIDE TO COLLEGES is through questionnaires -- some for administrators but the majority from students at the 300-plus institutions. These are long, open-ended questionnaires that ask about the academic life, nature of the student body, the food, dorms, social life, etc. In short, we ask the questions of current students that you yourself would ask if you ran into a student who is attending a college that you are considering. Then we write down what they say and put it into a narrative writeup about the school.


Gregory from Bastrop, LA: What do you think of early admission?

Edward B Fiske: Gregory, early admissions is good if you REALLY know that a particular college is the place for you. If you do not have that gut feeling, then resist the temptation (or the pressure) to go for it. Depending on the school, early applications can either increase or lower your odds of being accepted. While it's nice to have a decision out of the way by December, you should not do it at the cost of narrowing your options later on. There is also a good chance that you can be a more attractive candidate after you have a solid first semester of your senior year under your belt.


Maria from Brooklyn: Why don't you include a school's endowment in its profile?

Edward B Fiske: Maria, what counts is how a school uses its endowment. We often mention the total figure in the writeup, but the size of the endowment is pretty low on the list of factors that should influence a decision on where to go. There are, of course, places where the magnitude of the endowment is a factor in making it a quality institution or (as in the case of Rice) keeping tuition down. And low endowments can lead to high tuitions. But statistics like this are not in and of themselves that important. That's why in THE FISKE GUIDE we try to focus on the qualitative factors while giving enough relevant statistics (like SAT ranges) to help in evaluating the qualitative nature of the school.


Nora from New Jersey: Hi Ed, do you have a personal favorite of all the colleges you've seen?

Edward B Fiske: Nora, most colleges are interesting places, and going around visiting them can be a really enjoyable experience -- whether you are a prospective student or a college guide editor/lecturer/journalist. I've had a lot of memorable experiences on college campuses, from sitting in on some of the core lectures at Harvard to talking with students at Spelman, which has figured out how to take black women from "under-resourced" high schools and turn them into professional scientists. I also remember some of the odd places, like College of the Atlantic, which is tiny and located on the coast of Maine and specializes in environmental studies. I guess the one lesson that I've learned from all my years of looking at colleges is that the U.S. has the most diverse system -- and that diversity is in itself fascinating. It also means that there are plenty of good places to meet the needs of any particular student.


Anne Willensky from Phil.: Hey, Mr. Fiske, I think your guide is the best! How do you recruit your researchers? Can I contact you with my resume at an address?

Edward B Fiske: Anne, most of our writers are recent college graduates, usually involved in writing as a profession. We are always interested in new people. Anyone interested can contact us at THE FISKE GUIDE e-mail address: editor@fiskeguide.com


Richard Drake from St. Louis: I see you've been doing this for 16 years. What have you observed about the changes in college admissions over the years?

Edward B Fiske: Richard, good question. The "consumer" mentality has become much stronger over the last 16 years -- partly because the colleges started it in the late 1970s when the last of the baby boomers were working their way through college, and partly because of the rising costs of college. It's a major investment, so people want to make sure they are getting good value. That's what a book like THE FISKE GUIDE tries to talk about. Another trend has been a polarization of colleges. As with other aspects of our society, it seems as if the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The top three dozen or so colleges (at least those perceived that way) are getting more difficult to get into, but virtually all of the others are getting easier -- especially if you are not going to ask for financial aid. As an example, look at the acceptance rate of all those fine liberal-arts colleges in Ohio. With the exception of Kenyon, they all accept at least 80 percent of their applicants. As a matter of fact, there are only a dozen colleges in THE FISKE GUIDE that accept less than 25 percent of students, and only about 50 that turn away more than they accept. So we're seeing the emergence of a real buyer's market -- except for a few institutions.


Lewis from Miami, FL: What schools would you consider to be a few of the best state universities out there? Are there any state programs that you see heading in the right direction?

Edward B Fiske: Lewis, an important trend among state schools is the push to establish "learning communities" that mimic the experience of smaller liberal arts colleges within public institutions. These can be traditional honors colleges, dorms where students take some courses in common, or a dozen other forms of creating smaller communities. A lot of big universities are setting these up in order to offer the best of both worlds -- the stimulation of a large institution with the personal contacts of a smaller institution. Places like Michigan and Texas have had such programs for a long time, but many others are starting them up for competitive reasons. So these can make big public institutions great places. I also like the smaller state universities that see themselves as public liberal-arts colleges -- places like New College in Florida, Mary Washington in Virginia, St. Mary's in Maryland, UNC-Asheville. And of course there are always the Berkeleys of the world, which remain good.


Moderator: Thanks so much for joining us tonight, Mr. Fiske! I know you've lightened the burden of the college process for many -- thanks and happy holidays!

Edward B Fiske: Thank you! Good questions!


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