Your teenage daughter, her friends, your immediate and extended family seem to be all focused on one question these days: Where is she going to college? There are tons of institutions to choose from, and each one brings its own set of pros and cons to the table. It can be an overwhelming process. But one thing is certain: it's not just about academics anymore.

That is, according to the Princeton Review. The education services company recently released their 2008 edition of  " 366 Best Colleges". The book ranks top colleges and universities in 62 categories, highlighting their unique characteristics— from Best College Theater to Most Politically Active Students. The ranking was determined by surveying 120,000 students about their school's academics, administration, campus life, student body and themselves.

The book's author, Robert Franek, says the point of the ranking is to capture the climate and culture on campus.

Franek, former college admissions officer at Wagner College on Staten Island (NY), says the factors that make for a positive school experience change with the times, citing such hot issues as technology, diversity, acceptance of gays and lesbians, even food. “They're not just choosing a school. They're choosing their home for the next four years,” Franek says.

But what if your teen isn't sure what kind of culture she wants or what climate suits her best? She is, after all, still 18-years-old. Franek says most students fall into this group, but they can still get a clear picture of their likes and dislikes if asked the right questions. Franek suggests starting with questions like, “Where do you want to live” and “Do you learn better in a big class or a small class”? More specific questions about their interest in politics and religion will narrow down the list even further.

Franek says there are three main things a parent should keep in mind when helping their teen choose a college:

  • Never think of the college process as a burden. “Your child is going to pick up on that,” Franek says. “Choosing a college should be a thrilling experience for you and your child.”
  • Don' t be afraid to talk about financial aid. Franek says that some of the most top ranking schools have great financial aid packages due to their philanthropic alumni. “Schools are in the business of educating students,” Franek says.

  • Arm yourself with as much information as possible, including information found at the college's web site, the on-line version of the campus newspaper, and of rankings.

 So, here's a sample list from Princeton Review's “Best 366 Colleges: 2008 Edition”:

 Best Classroom Experience – Reed College (Portland, OR)

Most Beautiful Campus – Sweet Briar College (VA)

Students Most Nostalgic for Bill Clinton – Warren Wilson College (Asheville, NC)

Students Most Nostalgic for Ronald Reagan – Thomas Aquinas College (Santa Paula, CA)

Most Politically Active Students – George Washington University (DC)

Top Party School – West Virginia University (Morgantown)

Top Stone-Cold Sober School – Brigham Young University (Provo, UT)

Most Diverse Student Body – Temple University (Philadelphia, PA)

Everyone Plays Intramural Sports – University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN)

Gay Community Accepted—Macalester College, St. Paul (MN)

Students Happy with Financial Aid—Princeton University (NJ)

 Best College Newspaper—University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (NC)

 Dorms Like Palaces—Smith College (MA)

 Best Campus Food—Virginia Technical College, Blacksburg (VA)

 Birkenstock-wearing, Tree-hugging, Clove-smoking Vegetarians—Hampshire College (MA)

 Town-Gown Relations Are Great—St. Olaf College, Northfield (MN)

 Most Interesting Professors—Wellesley College (MA)

 Best Career/Job Placement Services—University of Texas at Austin (TX)

 A more complete version of this list is available in stores and on-line at