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Off-Beat Lists Rank Schools on Food, Rigor, Happiness

Looking for some quirky ways to pick a college? Check out Newsweek's Best Colleges For You,—25 lists ranking schools based on everything from best food to most beautiful. After all, the magazine notes, who wants to go hungry or spend four years in Uglyville? Some lists, however, are more serious, ranking the cheapest, most rigorous, and best international schools.

Although it offers an odd mix of topics, Newsweek chronicles its methodology to come up with the 25 lists. For instance, for the Accessible Professor list, it uses scores from evaluations at RateMyProfessor.com and student-to-faculty ratio from the National Center for Education Statistics. The Best Party School is based on drug- and liquor-law violations for 2009 as a percentage of institution size, along with drug safety, nightlife, and Greek Life grades from College Prowler .

While not as known, perhaps, as the traditional rankings by U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek maintains it looks at what American kids really care about these days. The rankings were designed with the philosophy that different schools are best for different students.

Among the lists worth reviewing: Best Return on Investment, Future CEOs, and Brainiacs. For the fun of it, look at the lists for Free-Spirited, Happiest, and Best Weather.

You can also search for a school first on the website and see how it's described.

For another off-the-radar list, look at the Gawker's 25 Most Unranked Colleges in America.

Plenty of material for prospective students to weigh this fall.

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