Search the Internet for “scholarships”, “financial aid”, and “college admissions” and you’ll find millions of search results. Experiencing information overload, it’s not unusual for students to select colleges based on reputation or suggestion. Many students and parents skimp on college research because they consider it time-consuming or they don’t know where to start. Often they miss out on important information and insight regarding specific programs of interest, scholarship opportunities, tactics to increase the likelihood of acceptance, and whether or not the school is actually a good academic, personal and financial fit. Finding both objective and subjective information about colleges doesn’t have to be difficult or overly time-consuming. You just need to know where to look. Here are sixteen resources (fifteen websites and one guide book) where students and parents can quickly get up to speed about individual colleges, affordability, admissions policies and the “inside scoop”:
The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014
The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014, available on Amazon, is a very comprehensive college guidebook that provides great insights about academic strengths, on-campus life and the types of students who would be a good fit for a particular school. More than 300 popular colleges and universities are featured with a combination of factual data, insider information, and academic, social and quality of life ratings for each school.
College Navigator (http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator) is a free consumer information resource provided by the U.S. Department of Education. You can easily find and explore schools based on search criteria such as: academic major, location, size, varsity athletic programs, tuition, and entrance exam scores. The site’s design looks dated but contains a treasure trove of information.
College Prowler (http://collegeprowler.com) is a refreshing an alternative to school-published brochures and factual websites. The site offers inside reviews by current students, and “grades” on an interesting variety of aspects for each school.
CollegeXpress (http://www.collegexpress.com) provides college search options and lists that can help you identify and explore colleges by major, location and a variety of other criteria. You’ll find more than 700 lists — everything from academic major to campus vibe to vegetarian-friendly. The site can be utilized without creating a user account.
Unigo (http://www.unigo.com) posts “insider” reviews, videos and photos contributed by students attending the college. While the reviews can be highly subjective, they can help prospective students get a sense of a college’s atmosphere and pulse. Although the site encourages visitors to create a user account, it is not necessary to view for much of the content.
College Board – Big Future
College Board (http://www.collegeboard.com) provides factual information for more than 3500 schools through its Big Future portal. You’ll find a broad range of information from the most popular majors to AP credit and placement policy. You’ll also find a “What Important” tab for each institution along with wait list statistics.
U.S. Government – Campus Safety & Security
Campus Safety and Security Data Tool (http://ope.ed.gov/security) maintained by the U.S. Government is helpful for evaluating schools from a safety perspective.
Campus Tours – YOUniversityTV
YOUniversityTV.com (http://www.YOUniversityTV.com) features entertaining and informative video tours of college campuses from Florida to California to Hawaii.
College Reality Check
College Reality Check (http://collegerealitycheck.com) provided by the Chronicle of Higher Education provides tool to compare schools on financial measures such as graduation rates, average net price, debt repayment and post-graduation earnings.
College Portraits — Factual Information about Public Colleges
College Portraits (http://www.collegeportraits.org) provides factual information for many public colleges and universities.
College Results — Graduation Rates
College Results Online (http://www.collegeresults.org) provides interactive tools to query graduation rates at four-year colleges and universities. In addition to providing college-specific graduation rates and other data (e.g. cost, financial aid), the comparison tool provides analogous information for similar colleges.
Kiplinger — Best College Values
Kiplinger’s Best College Values (http://www.kiplinger.com/fronts/channels/college) ranks U.S. colleges and universities in three separate lists: public, private universities, and liberal arts colleges. Users can query, view and sort the schools on each list by various financial and quality measures.
U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges
U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges (http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges) Beyond its annual rankings, the site offers a myriad of college data and guidance. In addition to ranking national universities and liberal arts colleges, you’ll find an assortment of interesting lists including: A+ Options for B Students, Learning Communities, Up-and-Coming Colleges, Internships-Co-ops, Study Abroad, Best Undergrad Teaching and Writing Programs.
Fair Test — SAT / ACT Optional Schools
FairTest (http://www.fairtest.org) The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a nonprofit advocacy organization provides a list of more than 800 four-year colleges and universities that do not use the SAT or ACT to admit substantial numbers of bachelor degree candidates.
Common Data Set / College Data
Common Data Set – Google “Common Data Set and Name of Institution” (e.g. Common Data Set Vanderbilt”) The Common Data Set refers that the source data that colleges and universities provide annually, in a standardized format, for use in college guides and other venues. Analyzing the data can provide insight about admissions, merit aid and other areas of interest. CollegeData.com provides much of the same information (e.g. early action/decision stats; admission factors / criteria; financial aid distribution) in an easier to digest format.
College Confidential (http://www.collegeconfidential.com), the popular college admissions site and discussion forum is a source of school-specific gossip (whether reliable or not) and information.
Written by: Lynn Radlauer Lubell, Publisher of InLikeMe.com and Founder of Admission By Design (firstname.lastname@example.org), an Educational Consultancy based in Boca Raton, Florida.
PDF Version: College Research Tools copy