Monday, May 8, 2006

College Guides - Hysteria in the Stacks

Peterson's, ARCO, Fiske, College Board, U.S. News: all these publishers have college guides. The library keeps the most recently published version on the reference shelves; the older copies in the stacks circulate for twenty-eight days. (Dewey # 378.) There are also books about scholarships, writing essays, and studying for the SAT's, AP's and other tests. A subject search using the terms "colleges and universities" yielded 224 "hits" in the BHPL catalog. As if there isn't enough stress and hysteria for parents of high school seniors and the seniors themselves, even the library has "TOO MUCH INFORMATION!" But wait, that's not all: every university has a website and the internet in general is teeming with college information. What's a parent/senior to do? Take a deep breath and ask your friendly reference librarian to guide you through the muddle of college publications.
College directories: The Insider's Guide to Colleges 2006, students on campus tell you what you really want to know, compiled and edited by the staff of the Yale Daily News. This is the guide that is "written by students for students" as the book jacket tells us. It has statistics and quotes from students who attend the university as well as some quirky lists like "Top Ten Schools with the Rowdiest Parties." (Unfortunately my own offsprings' university is on that one, I just realized.)
U.S. News- America's Best Colleges ranks 1,400 schools.Like most of the other college directories, there are sections on the application process, scholarship information, and advice for the parents and student on everything from decorating your dorm room to health concerns and so on. There is a pullout (please don't pull out the library one though) calendar from freshman year of highschool through senior year that details what to do when. In this way, college anxiety can be spread over four years instead of just one or two. Isn't that helpful?
There are specialized college guides like The Hidden Ivies, Thirty Colleges of Excellence and Colleges that Change Lives, 40 schools you should know about even if you're not a straight-A student. There are guides to individual colleges like the new College Prowler series which features student opinions.
Next are books on how to get into college like Peterson's Best College Admission Essays and many others along those lines. Then there are the books that prepare parents and students for life after leaving home like, A Parent's Guide to Sex, Drugs and Flunking Out and Getting Ready for College, everything you need to know before you go from bike locks to health care. (Just researching for this article is giving me flashbacks to the "college process" in my household not long ago.)
But we end with the part of this whole adventure that really makes the stressometer go off the scale: financial aid! Again there are piles of books about this topic. How to Go to College Almost for Free was written by Ben Kaplan, a young man who made it his mission to find every financial aid dollar available to him and then topped that feat off by writing a book about it. Don't you just hate it when that happens?
Here are some online guides to websites that are helpful:
A "Pathfinder" for higher education from the Camden County Library System website which lists books and websites for the college bound. Here is another Pathfinder for financial aid from CCLS. BHPL does not have all the same books as Camden, but we do have a lot, and of course the websites are available to anyone.
Good luck, future collegians, and remember, if you want to earn money for college while enhancing your chances for admission, consider writing a college guide with some kind of original gimmick - everyone else on the planet seems to be writing college guides, why not you? Just remember, don't plagiarize.

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