Best College Search Resources for 2017

Published by Wendy Nelson on

Illustration of a gold seal with a red ribbon and Best on it.

Looking for the best college search resources to help you and your student figure out a plan for applying to colleges?  Here is my roundup of the best college search resources to use in 2017.

  1. CollegeData Website – CollegeData is a great tool in so many ways because it has so much useful data.  It is the college search website that I trust the most.  I recommend using College Data for all of the following:
    • Searching for colleges – CollegeData has the best combination of search criteria and you can save search results
    • Assessing your student’s chance of getting into a specific college by comparing his or her ACT/SAT and GPA against admitted and not admitted students
    • Assessing your student’s chance of receiving financiall aid from a specific college by using the Financial Aid Tracker
    • Looking up statistics about a specific college – there is a ton of data for each school
  2. DIY College Rankings College Search Spreadsheet – This is a pre-filled spreadsheet of college data that you can purchase.  It is well worth the price in time savings.  Use this to find colleges that might work for your student, both financially and academically.
  3. Roadmap to Cutting College Costs – This is an online class offered by Michelle Kretzschmar of DIY College Rankings and Debbie Schwartz of Road2College.  They have been repeating and perfecting this online class for at least a year.  I participated in an earlier version of the class and thought it was an excellent resource for parents starting the college search process with their first child or parents who have been through the college search before and want to find more ways to save money on college the next time around.  I strongly endorse this class and have become an affiliate to help spread the word about it.  You can save $50 on the price of the class through the coupon code mkcc50.
  4. The College Solution College Cost Lab – This is an online class offered by Lynn O’Shaughnessy to teach you all about how to save money on your student’s college education.  Lynn is a master of college-related advice and she will help you learn everything you need to know in a very easy to follow online format.  I highly recommend this course.  It will save you hundreds of hours of getting up to speed on your own.  You mabe wondering why I have two online courses relating to college costs on my list.  Yes, some of the content is the same. However, Roadmap to Cutting College Costs is a 3-week course and The College Cost Lab is an 8-week course.  Roadmap to Cutting College Costs is a more data-driven, spreadsheet-driven dive into saving money on college.  The College Cost Lab is a somewhat broader look at saving money on college.  There is a price difference.  If you are interested in a course, I suggest clicking on the links to read more about each and to determine which one is right for you.  Either way, you will learn a lot.
  5. Websites to Find Private Scholarships – There are many websites that list private scholarships.  Private scholarships are offered by organizations, corporations and foundations.  Some of these websites require you to provide a lot of personal information and then they sell that information.  Others show you a lot of annoying ads.  There is no “perfect site” for finding private scholarships.  I am listing out the private scholarship sites I have found to be the most reliable and helpful.
    • FastWeb – Requires site registration and general information about your student.  Allows you to choose whether to subscribe to regular update emails.
    • Cappex – This site also requires registration and general student information.  The site has a lot of other things besides private scholarship information, but I like it for scholarships for a couple reasons.  It tells you how much effort will be needed to apply for each scholarship.  It also tells you how much competition is expected for each scholarship.  It often makes more sense for your student to spend more time preparing applications to less competitive scholarships than spending a lot of time focusing on the most competitive scholarships.  Cappex has a search for institutional merit scholarships, but you have to enter the school name in order to see what scholarships that school offers.  With that in mind, you might as well search directly on that school’s website to find the full details and up-to-date information.
    • Scholly – This is a mobile app you can download on your phone for $2.99.  It is available through your app store.  What I like about it is that you enter student information, it matches your student to scholarships, and then sorts them by the number of weeks or months until each scholarship’s application is due.  You can save the scholarships your student is interested in.  It will keep track of what you have applied for.
  6. Websites to Find Institutional Merit Scholarships – Institutional merit scholarships are offered directly by colleges based on your student’s high school statistics, most often ACT/SAT scores and GPA.  There are not a lot of options if you want to search for potential colleges based on what kind of institutional merit scholarships your student may be offered.  If you know what schools you want to look at, you can search for scholarships directly on those schools’ websites.  But you may miss out on great deals at colleges you didn’t think to look at or have never heard of.  There are a few ways to find schools that offer great institutional merit scholarships and I am listing these below.
    • Use the first resource on this list – CollegeData.  When you do a college search, you can go into each search result and see what % of students are offered merit scholarships.  This will give you some idea of schools you may want to explore further based on potential scholarships.  This can turn into a long and tedious process.
    • Use the second resource on this list – the DIY College Rankings College Search Spreadsheet.  This is an easier way to see what % of students are offered merit scholarships as this is a column right on the spreadsheet and you can sort and filter to see which schools offer the most merit scholarships.  You will still have to go look at each school individually to see what they offer.
    • Try my new online application – Merit Scholarship List.  I created it to fill the gap I saw of not having an easy way to find colleges that offer great institutional merit scholarships.  I am offering low-price introductory access.   It offers several different ways to search for great institutional merit scholarships – by amount, by state, by ACT/SAT and GPA qualifications, by type of scholarship (automatic, competitive, talent, national merit, etc.) and more.
  7. College-Related Blogs – There are several great blogs that will help you learn what you need to know to help with your kid’s college search process.  I believe mine at is one of them!  I also endorse the blogs listed below as I believe you can learn more by using several sources.  All of these, including my own, also have Facebook pages and post articles and other tips there on a regular basis.  Some, including mine, also have a sign-up for weekly (or more frequent) newsletters delivered straight to your inbox.  Also, some, including mine, have great free tools available on their websites that you can use in your college search.
    • DIY College Rankings – I have mentioned this site above a couple times.  It has a lot to offer, including a daily newsletter.
    • The College Solution – I have mentioned the College Cost Lab above.  The College Solution website offers a regular newsletter and also offers new blog posts on helpful topics several times a month.
    • Road2College – Rather than having a Blog page, content on this site is divided up under the main headings of Plan, Finance, Apply and Survive with sub-headings under each.  New articles are added periodically.
    • Grown & Flown – Parents (mostly moms), this is your sanity-check resource.  There are articles for parents with high schoolers, parents going through the college search process, parents of college students and empty nesters.  It is really aimed at moms.  It will give you reassurance knowing you aren’t the only one going through certain experiences and emotions.
  8. An “Up and Coming” College Search ResourceCollege Factual – I have been starting to explore this website for the past month.  It has a lot of different features.  It has a College Search function.  You can explore Majors and salaries associated with each.  You can explore different types of college rankings.  There’s a lot more on the site that I haven’t delved into yet.  It has rankings and tips for potential college athletes.  I think this could be a valuable resource and I think it is worth exploring further.

If you are looking for great college search resources, I strongly recommend any and all of the resources on this list.  I don’t believe that one “perfect” resource exists to help you find out everything you need to know for your kid’s college search.  I recommend a combination of a college search website, college-related blogs, websites to find private scholarships and institutional merit scholarships, the college’s own websites and potentially a great online class to round out your knowledge on how to save money on a college education.


Monica Matthews, · January 28, 2017 at 11:29 am

This is a great list! One little happy correction, the Scholly app is now free. 🙂

    Wendy Nelson · January 30, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    Thanks, Monica! Great to know!

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