The Great Eight:  Start Your Journey With These College Search Websites



 From promposals to make up tutorials, our high school children use Google to search anything and everything. So why would it be any different come time to conduct a college search?

 

Certainly Google is good as any place to start, but with 636,000,000 results—it’s understatedly overwhelming and not time conducive.

 

So at Road2College, we did our own exhaustive research on college search websites, followed by college research review comparisons, and finally after chiseling away at the 636 million results, we ended up with what we view as the Great Eight. In this case, we are not making reference to the NCAA Basketball Championships, but rather eight of the most used and approved college search websites.

 

Are the following eight the end-all, be-all? Definitely not; everyone has their personal preferences—from filters to graphics, from data to tables. So take from it what you will—if anything, the list is a great place to start.

 

 

College Board Big Future

 Who would know better about colleges than the College Board? After all, the College Board is the go-to for anything SAT- or AP-related. With millions engaging annually with the Board on their road to college, the extensive college planning web site (Big Future) provides myriad assistance and resources to a wide range of students and their families.

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Whether a student has a plan in hand or is truly just beginning their college search, Big Future is an authentic and objective step-by-step guide to college planning. With its fun graphics and slideshows, Big Future takes an encouraging and friendly approach to something that can seem quite overwhelming.

 

Get started:

  • Registration: Basic (Name, Date of Birth, Address, Graduation, High School, User/Password)

 

  • Ease of Use: Extremely Beginner-Friendly

 

  • Search Methods: By College or By Preferences (Major, Location, and School Type)

 

  • Advanced Filters: Test Scores/Selectivity, Type of School, Location, Campus/Housing, Majors/Learning Environment, Sports/Activities, Academic Credit, Additional Support Program, Diversity, Finance

 

  • “My Colleges”: The website pairs the searcher initially with six schools that best match his/her interest.  Make side-by-side comparisons with three schools simultaneously.

 

  • Data Export: Save your searches and comparisons for future use

 

Takeaway:

  • College Board Big Future has something for everybody—scholarship info, PSAT, SAT & AP test dates, career exploration, college student interviews, financial resources, direct links to colleges…the list goes on and on

 

  • Customizable everything: My Plan, My Tests, My Calendar, My Ways to PayMy Majors & Careers

 

  • Cons: The inability to share/email saved searches/comparisons

 

 

Collegedata

Collegedata may not be as visually appealing as some of the other sites on this list, but nevertheless the search engine packs a punch and offers some unique insight.

 

Powered by 1stFinancial Bank USA, the no-nonsense search tool is number-oriented—searches display odds for getting into selected colleges and compares the student against other applicants, it calculates expected family contribution (EFC), tracks financial aid, compares award packages, and much, much more. 

 

The tool serves as a reality check or (depending on how you look at it) a dream come true. Being that it is hosted by a bank, users may get email offers for credit cards, student loans, and other financial products. Nevertheless, Collegedata is the search tool for those who want to be realistic about their choices and make informed financial decisions.

 

Get started:

  • Registration: Basic (Name, Date of Birth, Address, Graduation, High School, User/Password) Type of College Preference and Interest in Financial Aid

 

  • Ease of Use: User-Friendly, use of Preferences for the college search is more time-consuming and detailed

 

  • Search Methods: By College or By Preferences (Test Scores/Selectivity, Type of School, Location, Majors/Learning Environment, Sports/Activities, Paying, Satisfaction/Graduation Rate, Student Background)

 

  • College Match Results: The website pairs the searcher with as many schools that best match his/her interest and gives the searcher the choice to delve into College Chances and Net Price.  The initial results present an informative, yet complicated table comparing all the college matches.

 

  • Data Locker: Add colleges to personal “Data Locker.” The Data Locker allows the user to compare the colleges selected and other key information (scholarships and articles) all in one location.

 

  • Data Export: Save, Share (email) and Print Searches/Results

 

Takeaway:

  • Collegedata is all about the numbers—odds of getting in to selected colleges, how much you should expect to pay, what others are paying, and what award package has more bang for your buck. It has sources to assist the college search from the very beginning to the end, from selection to finances.

 

  • Multitude of helpful tools: College Match, Admissions Tracker, College Chances, Financial Aid Tracker, Scholarship Finder, College Net Price Calculator,EFC Calculator, Compare Financial Aid Awards, and Data Locker

 

  • Cons:The College Match Results table, although detailed and informative, can be immensely difficult to decipher

 

 

College InSight

Like Collegedata, College InSight is geared for the more scientifically minded person.  Powered by the Institute for College Access & Success, this search engine makes data on college affordability, diversity, and student success easy to find, compare, and analyze for over 12,000 U.S. colleges and universities.

 

Not only a consumer resource, College InSight is a sophisticated research tool designed to help shed light on important trends and issues and is a great way to get a strictly objective viewpoint on what individuals schools are each like.

 

Get started:

  • Registration: None

 

  • Ease of Use: User-Friendly; right to the point

 

  • Search Methods: Spotlight (college, state, or type of school), Topic (one that interests you– dig deeper to see how specific colleges, states, or school types compare), All Data (build your own table)

 

  • Advanced Filters: Nearly 200 variables for most academic years since 2000-1, grouped into the following categories: Cost of Attendance, Economic Diversity, Enrollment,Financial Aid – Full-time Freshmen, Financial Aid – Undergraduates,Institutional Characteristics, Racial Diversity, Student Success

 

  • Results: The Spotlighttool allows you to compare two colleges; Topicallows you to compare data from six colleges and Explore All Datacan comparemore than 50 variables and/or 1000 colleges, states, or school types.

 

  • Data Export: View, Download, and Share/Save via email

 

Takeaway:

  • College InSight is one of the best data-driven search sites and allows you to compare an infinite number of schools. If data is all you desire, data is all you will get. There is no advice, no articles, no nonsense, and even no registration!

 

  • Not an end-all, be-all: College InSight gives you an analytical snapshot of schools, however it lacks the human element.This site is used best in conjunction with other college search sites.

 

  • Cons:Depending on how many variables and colleges you choose, the amount of data can be quite staggering, and hence, the resulting table can be hard to digest.

 

 

College Navigator

 Like College InSight, College Navigator is all facts and no frills. Put out by the National Center for Educational Statistics, the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education, the College Navigator is great for finding reliable data about any college.

 

However, similar to other data-driven sites, students won’t want to strictly rely on College Navigator while on their journey for the perfect college. Know how much you want to spend on tuition or what state you want to attend college?  Sure, the College Navigator can inform students what colleges fit the bill and where they are located on the interactive map, but there won’t be any first-hand stories from students who attend the colleges of interest nor a flashy interface to break up the data.

 

Get started:

  • Registration: None

 

  • Ease of Use: User-Friendly; right to the point

 

  • Search Methods: By school or By Preferences (State, Zip code, Institution Type, Degree Level, Major)

 

  • Advanced Filters:Tuition & Fees, Undergraduate Student Enrollment, Housing, Campus Setting, Admissions, Test Scores, Athletic Teams, Extended Learning Opportunities, Religious Affiliation, Specialized Mission

 

  • Results: The website pairs the searcher with as many schools that best match his/her interest.

 

  • “My Favorites”: Add institutions of interest to “My Favorites”. Of these, compare four side-to-side simultaneously.

 

  • Data Export: View, Download, Print and Share/Save via email as a spreadsheet

 

Takeaway:

  • All facts at your fingertips: Each college in the country has a page with relevant data including information regarding cost and financial aid, admissions, programs offered, graduation rates, athletics, and other general statistics

 

  • Not an end-all, be-all: College Navigator is all about the nitty-gritty and provides the lowdown on the nuts and bolts.Use in conjunction with other sites such as College Board Big Future, to get a well-rounded view of an institution. Great resources are linked to Navigator:  College Affordability & Transparency Center, FAFSA, and College Scorecard to make the search site more full-featured.

 

  • Cons: The immensity of information can be overwhelming.To researchers of higher institutions or parents who love to crunch numbers, the site is a dream come true, but to a student looking for the first time, the data can be bit of an overkill. 

 

 

College Raptor

Ever hear the saying, “The more you put into it, the more you get out of it?” For the College Raptor search site, the old adage holds true. While sign up for the site asks for the same old basic information, the input of more information such as Income/Assets of Student and Parent, Estimated GPA, SAT or ACT score promises a more comprehensive and detailed output.

 

Not a flashy site, College Raptor makes up for the lack of frills with the facts and advice it spits out:  a customized list of college matches in minutes, a comparison of costs and scholarships, and advice on how to maximize admissions chances and scholarship potential. College Raptor offers articles/advice on everything from last-minute SAT prep tips to employment law.

 

Get started:

  • Registration: Basic (Name, Date of Birth, Address, Graduation, High School, User/Password)

 

  • Ease of Use: User-Friendly

 

  • Search Methods: By school or By Preferences (Academic Major and College Preferences, Student Information, Family and Financial Information)

 

  • Results: The website narrows down the search to the number of colleges the student would like to apply to.

 

  • “My Favorites”: Add institutions of interest to “My Favorites”.  Of these, compare four side-to-side simultaneously.

 

  • Data Export: Share/Save via email

 

Takeaway:

  • Multitude of Tools: College Match, Student Loan Finder,What If, Net Price Calculator

 

  • What Makes College Raptor Unique: Discover acceptance odds (Huge Reach, Reach, Near Safety, Safety, Match), estimate a student’s net price at any 4-year college in the U.S.,compare schools to find the best academic, financial, andcultural fit

 

  • Cons: No simultaneous side-by-side comparison of colleges, no spreadsheets

 

 

College Scorecard

 Like College Navigator, the College Scorecard is a user-friendly resource hosted by the U.S. Department of Education. The site gives access to information about the cost and value of postsecondary institutions across the country and allows users to compare data across institutions. With data from Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System(IPEDS), the National Student Loan Dataset (NSLDS), and the U.S. Treasury it sheds light on student demographics and test scores, as well as provides unique information on median salary 10 years after college entry for Title IV aid recipients, median federal student debt post-graduation and typical monthly loan payment.

 

If a potential student is looking for more than statistics, then College Scorecard is certainly only one piece of the puzzle to consider. However, like a collectible baseball card of your favorite player, it lays out the details in a very easy-to-read format, complete with pie charts and bar graphs, and is definitely a site to keep up on the browser during the college search.

 

Get started:

  • Registration: None

 

  • Ease of Use: Extremely User-Friendly; right to the point

 

  • Search Methods: By school or By Preferences (Program/Degrees, Location, Size)

 

  • Advanced Filters: Type of School, Specialized Mission, Religious Affiliation

 

  • Results: College Scorecard displays as many institutions that match the student. The results initially display location, number of students, average annual cost, graduation rate, and salary after attending. Sort results in a number of ways depending on your preference. Clicking on the “scorecard” leads to more detail.

 

  • Compare: Scorecard gives the user the capability to compare five schools at a time. The comparisons are broken down by category and displayed as bar graphs.  Interested in a specific school?  Bar graphs can display the results for that particular school(s) in a different color bar than the others.

 

  • Data Export: The College Scorecard, in deference to the sign of the times, allows the user to share comparisons and school information via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and email.

 

Takeaway:

  • Just the Facts Ma’am: The College Scorecard may share a lot of data, but its format is appealing and so reader-friendly.There are no outstanding links to distract the user from the job at hand (especially for those whose attention is fleeting).  Besides learning about financial aid and GI Bill benefits, starting your FAFSA, and calculating aid, Scorecard is all about the facts.

 

  • Great Use of Bar Graphs: The other search sites are great with displaying tables, however more times than not, they are overwhelming. College Scorecard goes the extra step and formats each comparison as a bar graph. 

 

  • So Inclusive: If the user is interested in searching by religious affiliation, Scorecard is all-inclusive. From African Methodist Episcopal to Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, there are 63 affiliations to choose from.

 

  • Cons: This however, does not hold true if you are interested in including more than one academic program in a search. Only one program can be chosen at time. So if the searcher is interested in both dance and say, child psychology, there would have to be two separate searches.

 

 

Cappex 

If Target is a one-stop shop, Cappex is the ultimate one-stop college search site. From comparing schools, calculating admissions chances, applying for financial aid, to just figuring out if a school is a good match for you, Cappex has everything college under the sun, including direct links to college websites where users can begin the process.of starting college applications!

 

Borrowing features from Facebook, the platform’s graphics and tools undeniably appeal to teenagers. Additionally, by working one-on-one with colleges, Cappex helps colleges target the appropriate students and connect—some would say, like a college matchmaker. And if money is a concern, Cappex can uncover millions of dollars in scholarships from colleges, universities, private companies, foundations — and more — to help pay for school.

 

Get started:

  • Registration: Basic (Name, Date of Birth, Address, Graduation, High School, User/Password) and Ethnicity

 

  • Ease of Use: User-Friendly; Lots of different directions to choose from

 

  • Search Methods: By school or By Preferences (Program, Location, Size, Religious Affiliation, Type of Campus)

 

  • Advanced Filters: The more you complete your profile, the more comprehensive the search becomes. Complete profile with academic information, family and financial information, and activities.

 

  • Results: Cappex matches prospective college student with as many schools that meet the criteria and preferences.

 

  • “My College List”: Add institutions of interest to “My College List.” Of these, take notes, make comparisons, learn important dates for applications, rank the colleges, financial aid, housing, transfer students, update your status, and archive your previous searches/results.

 

  • Compare: Cappex gives the user the capability to compare three schools side-by-side at a time. Make comparisons regarding admissions, tuition & costs, campus life, and diversity.

 

  • Data Export: Archive colleges of interest

 

Takeaway:

  • Can I Be of Assistance?: Based on the user’s registration info and preferences, Cappex recommends potential compatible colleges which will personally reach out to the user. Often times, Cappex will pair users with colleges that they are not yet familiar, which opens up the playing field.

 

  • Scholarship Galore: Cappex is not only a college matchmaker, but a scholarship matchmaker as well.  Uncover scholarships from colleges, universities, private companies, and foundations to help pay for school by simply filling out a free profile. Looking for athletic scholarships?  Create a free profile to put yourself on recruiters’ radar.

 

  • Multiple Tools: What are My Chances?® Calculator, The Cappex College Fit Meter, Campus Visit Planner, Cappies Awards (Students’ Top College Rankings)

 

  • Join the College Discussion: See what college students are saying about each school to learn more about their academics, extracurriculars and campus life. Cappex features more than 1.4 million reviews. By interacting with colleges, applying to scholarships and navigating Cappex, users can play the Cappex Cap Challenge. and gain access to apparel and scholarships.

 

  • Cons: Although colleges can be archived, comparisons cannot be printed, emailed, or shared.

 

 

Naviance

 Unlike the other college search sites on this list, Naviance’s platform is only accessible to users whoseK–12 institutions partner with them to provide students with college planning and career assessment tools. Currently, more than 7 million students at nearly 8,500 schools in 100 countries use Naviance.

 

Not only is Naviance the ultimate, comprehensive source for anything and everything college, Naviance also allows students to create a personalized plan that helps them make decisions throughout their academic journey. Akin to an online portfolio, registered users keep all their important documents and information in one place:  teacher recommendations, test scores, transcripts, resumes, calendars, and more.

 

Get started:

  • Registration: About MeProfile

 

  • Ease of Use: User-Friendly

 

  • Search Methods: By School or By Criteria

 

  • Advanced Filters: SuperMatch™ allows the users to narrow their college search by using 23 criteria, ranging from location and ethnicity to Greek Life and disability services

 

  • Results: Results update in real time as preferences are entered, showing a percentage match for each school. The more search options filled, the more accurate the results may be.

 

  • “Pin Your Favorites”: To learn more about a school, click its name. The expanded view will explain the percentage score and also provide ways to connect with the school. Pin favorites for comparison, for future reference, and to keep up-to-date on important dates

 

  • Compare: Using the schools saved as favorites, compare any three side-by-side. At any time save results of searches for future reference.

 

  • Data Export: In line with the times, save your searches or share by Twitter, Facebook, or email.

 

Takeaway:

  • Connectivity: Students, families, and staff work together throughout the whole process. Not only does this keep everyone in the loop, it reduces the time and effort needed to relay information and documents to everyone involved.With a simple click, all approved users can gain access to the student’s portfolios, searches, plans, requirements, goals, and more.Communicate, apply online, reach out to college communities, schedule college visits.

 

  • Assessments: Unsure of goals, strengths, personality? Naviance has a trove of assessments to help students discover who they are—StrengthsExplorer ®, Do What You Are®, Learning Style Inventory™, MI Advantage™

 

  • To College and Beyond: As we know, college is just the beginning. And to Naviance, it’s never too early to look beyond college graduation. From career profilers to career clusters, the resources for career planning are plentiful and helpful.

 

  • Cons: Naviance is only accessible to those students whose districts are partnered with them.

 

No one college search website is a one-size-fits-all, and none is the end-all, be-all.  Using college search websites in conjunction with one another will guarantee a broader picture of what one can expect from the college experience.  In addition, engage with current college students and alumni, if given a chance. Visit the campus, speak to college representatives at college fairs, peruse the college’s school newspaper…there are many ways to discover if a college is the perfect fit!

 

 

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