- College Data – This site has become my favorite place for doing college search research. It has great data to help with your college search. There is a very unique college search tool and College Chances Calculator. The college search tool allows you to get data on average student debt, percentage of students receiving merit awards, freshman satisfaction rate, and more. The College Chances Calculator will compare class rank, GPA, test scores (ACT/SAT), number of honors courses, community service hours and more against the data pool of accepted applicants to gauge your chance of being admitted. There are many other helpful features to make College Data a “one stop shop” to guide you and your college-bound student through the college search and college admission processes.
- Niche (formerly College Prowler) – This site has a criteria-based college search feature, college “grades” by current students and actual current student reviews. There is also scholarship information and a college chances calculator basing your grades and test scores against what the site has compiled for comparison data (supposedly from actual admitted students). What I really like about this site is the open and honest feedback provided by current students. It gives you a whole different perspective of the school than you get from a brochure, website or campus visit. When you register for this site, you will receive emails when information you are interested in is updated.
- Cappex – This is a great multi-purpose site. You create a student profile and then you can search for schools, save schools to your list, search for scholarships, plan campus visits, read student reviews and gauge your chances at getting into a school. The scholarship search has a nice feature that tells you how much competition you will have if you apply for the scholarship.
- Fastweb – This site makes it easy to find and track outside scholarships. You can mark the ones you do and don’t want to apply to and track the due dates. When you register for this site, you will receive emails when new scholarships are available. The site has also expanded to include a college search function, financial aid advice and career advice.
- College Board – Big Future – Site developed by The College Board to provide lots of information for students and parents on the college choice process. Has a college search feature to narrow down potential colleges to consider based on several criteria like location, size, selectivity, etc.
- College Navigator – This is a federal government site through the National Center for Education Statistics. It houses the College Navigator search tool. This tool allows you to search for colleges meeting a good variety of search criteria. You can also get to the Net Price Calculator Center that allows you to link to the net price calculator for almost any college in the country.
- National Association for College Admission Counseling – Students and Parents – This is the site of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. It has a special section for Students and Parents with a search tool and a lot of good advice on things like paying for college, applying to college, college preparation and succeeding in college. You can find some really good information about college ranking methodologies used by the various groups that rank colleges.
- The College Solution – This is a terrific blog site from a highly respected college information commentator and author named Lynn O’Shaughnessy. She has a ton of valuable content on her site. It isn’t a college search site, but it is a site to go to if you want in-depth information about a particular college search topic. You can go to the Blog tab and drill down to topics and sub-topics. Lynn gives you the “scoop” on topics and backs up her information with real examples and authorities.
- DIY College Rankings – This site offers great college search tools and helpful blog posts. Michelle Kretzschmar, the site’s author, is very data focused and offers an Excel spreadsheet tool to narrow down college options and create your own custom college search spreadsheets. Michelle’s tool is based on the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System which is the basis for the College Navigator website. She also offers an online class on how to use her spreadsheet tool most effectively. I love Michelle’s 50-50 College Listing system of narrowing down colleges to consider.
- US News – Best Colleges – US News is the “old standby” of college rankings. I know their ranking methodology is somewhat controversial, but I like to use their lists anyway. You get a broad snapshot of information for each school. You need to take the rankings with a grain of salt because there are plenty of good colleges that aren’t in the top 100 on the national lists. It is a great site to use in the early stages of the college search when you want to develop a college search spreadsheet. You will find most, if not all, of the data you want to track about a school right on the US News site. You can get even more information about each school, save a list and do comparisons if you sign up for the US News College Compass. The price is $24.95 for a year of access. The new rankings come out around the second week in September every year.
Honorable Mention College Search Information Websites
These are sites that don’t currently make my top 10 college search information websites, but do have some useful features and are worth checking out if you have additional time to go exploring.
- College Confidential – College Confidential has lots of helpful features. There is a college search feature that has the widest variety of search criteria that I have seen. Each college has a discussion forum and a place where people can rate the school based on a college visit. This can be helpful information in either making your decision to visit or not visit a school or to validate that others thought the same as you did about a school. There are articles related to college admissions, paying for college, and other college related topics. A word of caution – the most popular feature on College Confidential is the discussion boards. You have to take all the information out there with a “grain of salt.” It is full of people with strong personal opinions. As with other discussion boards out on the web, there are lots of people with way to much free time on their hands that insist on picking on and insulting each other back and forth on these discussion boards. This clouds the ability to find helpful information. The boards do have pretty strong moderation, but in my opinion, they let people get too off track of the intent of the original discussion.
- ApplyMap – This is a fairly new, but promising, college search site. They claim to have better college data and more precise predictions for their college chances calculator. The site is very user-friendly. I like their search, but I find it a bit limiting in choosing what is important to you in a school. There is no ability to narrow down schools by majors/programs offered. It is definitely worth checking out.