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There’s simply no disputing the fact that choosing a college is hard. There are thousands of choices just in the United States–that alone is enough to overwhelm anyone. You may wonder where you should start your search. Of course, you can research all of the colleges that you’ve heard of, that your parents went to, that your best friend’s brother went to, etc., but is that really the best way to choose the school that’s right for you? Probably not. Chances are you will find that there are hundreds of colleges that you don’t even know exist, and one of those just might be your undiscovered dream school!

So how should you start your college search? Your school guidance counselor might be a viable option, but if you are looking for a better, more hands-on approach, check out college guidebooks. I know, I know, why read a whole book if you can simply use Google? Well, in order to properly do research, you have to have a starting point. You cannot simply Google “best colleges for *your name.*” That definitely will not work. College guides cover hundreds of schools in one book: listing the majors, financial facts, and other aspects of the school which are vital to know before you start applying. These guides are not limited specifically to colleges; there are a number of books that cover the hundreds of different college majors. On the other hand, not all of these guides are written by companies such as College Board. You can find books written by other college students, too, which can be very helpful.

If you walk into Barnes and Noble or sign on to Amazon, you are bound to find hundreds of college guidebooks, so where do you start? Here’s a list of the top three absolute best and most useful books to guide your college search.

1. Fiske Guide to Colleges

Ask anyone which college guide they used to help their search and they will probably tell you they used the Fiske Guide to Colleges. This book is updated yearly and contains hundreds of schools listed in order according to the state they are located in. In just two or three pages per school, this book provides an overview of the school, its location and student life, along with the most popular majors, size statistics, financial aid facts, and even a few schools that are similar to it. This guide is definitely the most comprehensive, and it provides a perfect starting point for you college research.

2. Book of Majors

This book is an invaluable source throughout your college search, and even the first two years of school until you declare your major. While the Fiske Guide to Colleges is useful for chooses a school, Book of Majors helps students grasp exactly what they want to study. Knowing your major before you choose a college is not mandatory, but it is useful. If you know exactly what you want to study, you can cater your college search to only the schools that offer that particular major. This can prevent a student from needing to transfer halfway through their college career when they realize the school they are attending does not offer the major they wish to study.

3. The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges

This guide covers more than 300 colleges, providing the most accurate descriptions of each school. Written and researched by college students for college students, what better way is there to find out exactly what these colleges are like? Each of the colleges covered in this guide have unique information about the schools straight from the students who go there. This book covers everything from acceptance rates, nightlife, popular majors, professors, dorms, student life, and anything else you could possibly want to know about a school before you attend. The guide goes above and beyond college brochures and website descriptions of the schools.

Check these books out, and good luck searching!

Are there any other college guides you found helpful during your college search? Share them below in the comments!

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