Ivy Bound presents a review of the top ten college guides, with an emphasis on those serving students trying to get into an Ivy League school. There are countless college guides to choose from, so we’ve selected only the best for our future members of the Ivy League.

In a hurry? You can use the right and left arrows below to spin the carousel and check out each of the Top Ten College Guides we recommend. Or read on for a brief discussion of each title.

1. What It Really Takes to Get Into Ivy League and Other Highly Selective Colleges – by Chuck Hughes

Written by a former senior admissions officer at Harvard University, this book has all of the insider insight you need for getting into an Ivy League School. Hughes makes generous use of case studies of actual applicants to Harvard, giving the book a more “real world” feeling than any of the others. He also does a great job of separating one Ivy League school from the others in the pack, pointing out how each one is subtly different with regard to what they specifically look for in admissions candidates. This book, therefore, is our top pick, as it not only lets you know more about the Ivy League schools – it lets you know how to better your chances of getting into one.

2. A Is for Admission: The Insider’s Guide to Getting into the Ivy League and Other Top Colleges – by Michele Hernandez

Our second pick is also from an insider – a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Dartmouth College who also worked as Dartmouth’s assistant director of admissions for four years. Like Hughes’ book, this gives you a real perspective on how the admissions board will perceive you – what they’re looking for, how they make their decisions. She discusses many of the issues you probably have been wondering about (i.e. comparative importance of SATs versus high-school grades, public versus private high schools, and extracurricular activities versus part-time employment). She really includes ALL the factors that can affect your chances of getting into an Ivy League school – whether your parents attended, your financial and ethnic background, you name it.

3. The Best 371 Colleges, 2010 Edition – by Princeton Review

Unlike the huge college guides that try to review every single institution of higher learning, the Princeton Review’s college guide takes a laser focus on only the best schools. True, this includes more than just the Ivy League schools, but it never hurts to broaden your horizon a bit. Amherst College and Williams, for example, are not technically Ivy League schools, yet they perenially are ranked the #1 and #2 colleges in the U.S. So this book is our third choice, since it lets you consider the top schools that aren’t technically in the Ivy League, but are still of the highest caliber. The book is also unique in the way it categorizes schools in extraordinarily creative ways.

4. The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, 2010: Students on Campus Tell You What You Really Want to Know – by the Staff of the Yale Daily News

Our fourth pick is the only comprehensive college guide written for students by students – specifically the staff writers of the Yale Daily News. Unlike the first two books, which give you the inside perspective of the admissions department, this is a book that gives you a dorm’s eye view of your future home for the next four years. It really has the texture of sitting around a dorm room floor, chatting with your future fellow alums.

5. The Best Northeastern Colleges, 2010 Edition

Like the Peterson’s College Guide, this one will also allow you to look beyond the Ivy League, while at the same time including them – since 100% of Ivy League schools happen to be in the Northeast. So you won’t find Stanford here, though you will find it in the Peterson’s. (Which is why we gave Peterson’s a higher ranking…)

6. U.S. News Ultimate College Guide 2010

Of all the college guides that try to cover the whole waterfront of schools in the U.S., this is the one that always seems to get it right. They interview everyone – students, faculty, admissions staff – to compile profiles that are extremely telling, while at the same time including easy-to-navigate statistics – the ones you’ll be most interested in. Another plus is that this college guide also addresses the topic of finding money for college.

7. 2009 Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges with CD-ROM

This is actually a very well-written and informative college guide, but we demoted it to #7 just because we think including a CD-ROM is so very very 1999. Does anyone still use those things? A web link with all the necessary information would be so much more helpful – since it would be updated automatically as facts changed. Nonetheless, it’s a good book, and the CD-ROM will make an excellent coaster for your favorite frosty dorm room beverage, once you decide upon – and get into – the college of your dreams.

8. Fiske Guide to Colleges 2010 – by Edward Fiske

By some accounts, this is the #1 best-selling guide. Perhaps we have a prejudice against popularity, explaining its entry at #8 on our college guide charts. It does, however, have an excellent list of each school’s strongest major and programs. It also comes with a self-quiz to help you figure out which college is right for you. But if you’re reading this, you already know what kind of college you wish to attend, so skip the silly quiz.

9. College Handbook 2010 by The College Board

One advantage of this college guide worth mentioning is that when you purchase it, you get a $10 credit if you decide to take the College Board’s online SAT prep course. Other than that, this is an incredibly informative book, but it won’t be that useful to you, since it gives equal weight to Harvard, Yale, and every little rinky dink college throughout the U.S. – over 2000 colleges and universities in total. You’re probably better off with one of the above choices, with their emphasis on Ivy League and other highly-selective schools.

10. Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges – by Loren Pope

This is actually a pretty incredible book, arguably it deserves to be #1 on the list – and yet here it sits at #10. Why? Because if you know you want to get into an Ivy League school, this book really isn’t going to speak to you. But… if you have an open mind – if you’ve been asking yourself THE BIG QUESTIONS – why an Ivy League? What do I really want from college? – then this book might be for you.

The book was written by the now former education editor (now deceased) of the New York TImes, Loren Pope. His focus is on schools that promote values, initiative and risk-taking. He doesn’t put much stock in stuff like SAT’s. In fact, one of his earlier books is also quite excellent, and its title says everything you need to know about his point of view: Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That’s Right for You.