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Seven Resources to Help with the College Search

There are many online resources that can boost your clients' chances of creating a great college list for their kid.

The college application process is often overwhelming. It is possible, however, to conduct a successful college search with the right tools. And in this digital age, the Internet can make the search much easier.

There are many online resources that can boost your clients' chances of creating a great college list.

Here are seven resources to check out:

1. The College Board Website

This is a handy site for quickly sizing up an individual college’s financial aid practices. By checking a university’s profile on the College Board website, you can find valuable information such as:

  • Average need-based aid award
  • Average non-need-based aid award (merit scholarship)
  • Percentage of students who get their full financial need met
  • Pie chart with average award broken down by grants/scholarships versus loans and work-study job

To obtain the above figures for any university:

  1. Type in the institution’s name in the search box on the College Board’s home page.
  2. Click on a school’s Paying link in the left-hand column.
  3. Click on the college’s Financial Aid by the Numbers link.

2. College Completion

In my experience, most parents assume that their children will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years, but this usually doesn’t happen.

College Completion, which is a microsite for The Chronicle of Higher Education, provides graduation rates for individual colleges.

On the site, you can check the four-, five- and six-year graduation rates for any school. You can also see the graduation rates broken down by race/ethnicity and gender.

In addition, you can generate lists of private and/or public universities by graduation rates nationally or by individual states. Your clients and prospects will be impressed with the graduation-rate lists that you can easily produce.

3. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s College Cost Breakdowns by State

While most students aren’t charged full price for college, it can be extremely helpful to know what a university’s published price is. A $15,000 scholarship, after all, won’t go as far at a school with a $65,000 sticker price versus one that charges $35,000.

Using this link to The Chronicle’s software, you’ll discover the tuition and room/board charges at state and private schools. And you’ll see the tuition price at state universities for nonresidents, which can be considerably higher.

What I find especially valuable is being able to generate lists of schools by prices within a state or nationally.

4. Educate to Career

Don’t be turned off by this homely website. It offers many valuable resources, but the tool that I’m focusing on here is called College & Major Outcomes.

With this tool, you can discover the average salaries of a college’s previous year’s graduating class by academic major. The information will be broken down by the most common occupations from students who graduated with a specific major. These figures don’t come from surveys but from federal databases.

Here is how to access the salary figures:

In the header at the top of the home page, click on the Counselors & Consultants link.

Scroll down the page and click on College & Major Outcomes. Once there, type in the name of the school, the state and the major.

5. Center for College Affordability and Productivity

This think tank creates the annual college rankings for Forbes. While I’m not a fan of rankings, I do think that they can be valuable for simply generating ideas.

On this site, you can see the schools and sort them in different ways, such as:

  • Best colleges in the Northeast
  • Best colleges in the Midwest
  • Best colleges in the South
  • Best colleges in the West

To access the latest rankings, click on the Our Rankings link toward the bottom of the first screen on the home page.

6. College Navigator

This federal website provides a tremendous amount of information about individual institutions. One of the statistics worth checking out is the percentage of first-year students who receive institutional aid, whether need based, merit based or both.

At some schools, everyone or nearly everyone will receive a price break, while at the most elite schools, it’s common for roughly half of the students (high-income) to pay full price. 

To generate this statistic, here’s what to do: 

  1. Type in the name of a school in the search box.
  2. Click on its Financial Aid link.
  3. Scroll down the page until you get to Institutional Grants or Scholarships.
  4. Check the column Percent Receiving Aid. 

College Navigator also includes a college search engine on its site.

Looking for public universities in a suburban setting that offer a nursing major in the Great Lakes region and accepts 70 percent of its applicants? That’s no problem for this search engine.

Interested in private colleges with 2,000 to 3,000 students that offer an economics major in a city on the East or West Coast? That search is doable too.

7. Net-Price Calculators

These calculators provide families with an estimate of what a specific school will cost after subtracting grants and scholarships, from the federal and state governments and from the school itself.

A thorough calculator will require your clients to share information from their income tax returns and investment accounts. There is no reason why a school’s ultimate cost should be a shock when parents use these calculators.

The federal government requires that colleges post a net-price calculator on their website. 

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