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BOOKS OFFER TIPS ON COLLEGE LIFE, FINANCES

Choosing the right college is difficult. Knowing which colleges are hot, when to apply and how to get in is tough - but who can really tell what campus life will really be like?

Thirty thousand college students have provided straight-from-the-campus scoop on the nation's 250 top colleges and universities in "The Princeton Review-The Student Access Guide to the Best Colleges" by Tom Meltzer, Zach Knower and John Katzman (The Princeton Review, $16).Among the book's findings:

- Students Happiest With Their College: Duke University, Durham, N.C.

- Best Overall Quality of Life: Sweet Briar (Virginia) College.

- Worst Food: State University of New York at Albany.

The Princeton Review, a company known nationwide for its standardized test preparation programs, polled the 30,000 students, asking them how they felt about academics, administration, campus life and more - 67 topics in all.

Information was also gathered from admissions offices, financial aid officers and independent college counselors.

The 566-page book gives a brief description of each college and university, its academic rating, most popular majors and what's hot and what's not. It also includes rankings of top and bottom schools in various categories including social life, parties and politics.

Also available: "The Princeton Review-The Student Access Guide to Paying for College: Financial Aid and Financial Planning: The Most Effective System for Cutting College Costs Regardless of Your Income" by Kalman Chany with Geoff Martz (The Princeton Review, $14).