How 283 Great Colleges saved my life


Barnes & Noble’s SparkNotes, as everyone knows, is the official religion of American high schoolers. Aiding in the understanding of literature greats such as Shakespeare and Dickens, the geniuses at SparkNotes know how to put ideas into words we lazy teenagers can understand. So why look anywhere else when searching for a compilation of useful college information?

283 Great Colleges is part of SparkCollege, a subdivision of SparkNotes. Immediately upon seeing the SparkNotes emblem, I picked up the book (or as I now refer to it, The Bible.) I had been staring at the “College” section in Barnes & Noble for roughly forty-five minutes, mesmerized and overwhelmed by the intimidating tomes when I was merely in search of a relatively pedestrian college review book. While some looked like phonebooks or hardware manuals, 283 Great Colleges featured people-friendly elements, such as an icon system to organize the schools and a very simple, entertaining overview of each college.

I was a little miffed when I first noticed that my omnipotent lifesaver was published in June 2008 and no updated edition had been published. College requirements constantly change, and new books are written yearly on the subject. However, the lack of timeliness didn’t seem to matter with the information provided in 283 Great Colleges. The book gave interesting tidbits about the schools’ centuries-old traditions and myths, the overall vibe of each school and what kind of student body to expect, which doesn’t usually change every 365 days.

Each page is set up with a column labeled “5 Reasons It’s Cool,” providing information on each college’s unique features. For example, did you know that at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York, New York gives every single admitted student a full scholarship? Did you even know that school existed?

Next to that is “The Basics,” which details if the school is public or private, the student population, campus setting, school mascot and famous alumni.

Following “The Basics” are a few short paragraphs noting the school’s quirks, nightlife, popular activities, Greek life, athletics and work ethic. At the bottom of each page is a list of five other schools to check out that are similar to that school.

The nitty-gritty details are in here, too. Sections pertaining to admissions, student statistics and money matters provide helpful figures for those looking at the big picture.

I am obsessed with 283 Great Colleges. I have read through it multiple times, sometimes turning to a random page and reading about some school in South Dakota with a population of sixty. Dog-eared and with a broken spine, my book has helped me through many a stressful time and eventually helped me narrow down my college search from 283 to 5.


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