Review of College Search Websites: Should You Use

Computer knowledgeIn the spirit of a new college admissions cycle and for the benefit of both rising juniors and seniors this is the second review in our series of reviews of college search websites. Some have a plethora of worthwhile information which can really help a student create a thorough list of both academically and financially appropriate schools, while other search sites are merely front-end collection sources for capturing student information and reselling it to companies (and colleges) wanting to market products, services, and applications to students. So follow us to know which sites are worth spending your time on and which to avoid.

  3 Steps to Show You Why You Should Visit:  

  1. Select College Match Search from the College 411 Tab Menu.


  1. Scroll to the Financial Friendliness Section. Under Merit Aid, check Include Only Students Without Financial Need. Select 30% or higher


  1. Scroll down and click Find

 You now have a list of colleges where 30% or more of students without need receive merit aid.   


What to Look For On This Site

Colleges Found Table (The Search Results) –  Besides College Results Online, COLLEGEdata is the only other website that lists significant information in a table for comparison purposes. The table lists the Percentage of Need Met and the Percentage of Freshman Receiving Merit Aid. It also includes the four-year graduation rate  

Money Matters Option  – The dropdown arrow by each college name will take you to the specific college profile. Start with the Money Matters option. What you want to pay attention to is the Profile of Financial Aid option. Spend some time getting to know the different numbers listed, especially the Average Percentage of Need Met and the Percentage of students with no Financial Need Receiving Merit-Based Gift Aid. Be sure to compare the stats for the Freshman with those for All Undergraduates for possible signs of gapping  


What I Would Change or Add

Get rid of the Entrance Difficulty categories and just split it into class rank, test scores, and acceptance rates. The categories may be a useful way of classifying the school, it just makes it more difficult for students to figure out how they would fit in with their stats.  Display the % of Students with No Need Receiving Merit-Based Gift Aid and the average amount in the preliminary Search Results table. This would allow users to easily compare colleges. Of course, that may be the point. Despite this limitation, the table itself is a tremendous tool compared to what is available at most other College Search Websites.  


Usual Complaints

  1. You can’t download the data for multiple colleges at once. This is understandable since these websites make their money by keeping users sticking around to see the advertisements that pay the bills. But it’s still frustrating.  
  2. Allow users to enter their own numbers for search requirements instead of forcing them to use categories. Would it really undermine their ad revenue if students entered their own ranges for student size or minimum graduation rates?  



Check out our reviews of other college search sites:

Should You Use The College Board Search Tool To Research Colleges?

Using College Search Websites To Search Online: College Results Online


Michelle Kretzschmar created the DIY College Rankings Spreadsheet, which contains information on over 1,500 colleges that families can use to identify  the best schools for them.

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