Day 12 Build that Perfect College List
Students typically end up looking at a fairly narrow lineup of schools, which is not always a good strategy if you want to find good academic fits, as well as colleges that will be more affordable. Below are some resources that help you locate schools that have majors that interest your child. Other resources will help you find and evaluate schools that might be better financial matches.
The College Completion website includes a wide variety of graduation statistics for individual schools. On this free site, you can create custom peer groups to compare colleges and sort individual private and/or public schools by state and graduation rates.
College Results Online
College Results Online, which is a creation of The Education Trust, provides similar information to what you’ll find on College Completion. One of the features that I like on this site is the ability to find schools that are similar to each other. To create a list, you must first call up the profile of a school and then click the Similar Colleges button.
The College Board is a favorite resource of mine when I want to get a quick read on whether a school is stingy, financially awesome or somewhere in between. What families find on the College Board is equally relevant whether they are seeking schools that provide merit scholarships that are rewarded without regard to a family’s finances.
collegedata provides tons of information about individual schools in such areas as financial aid, majors, admission factors and more. You can use it to find schools that are either generous with need-based aid or that provide a high percentage of students with merit scholarships:
Finding College Money with collegedata.com
The site has much of the same financial information that you’ll find on the College Board, but it includes one important statistic that the College Board omits—the number of students who receive merit scholarships (non-need-based aid).The College Board only shares what the average merit scholarship amount is and not how many students receive it. That number, however, is important for affluent children who want to know what the odds are of receiving a merit scholarship.
Forbes College Rankings
Forbes Magazine’s annual college rankings. While these rankings exist in the shadows of U.S. News rankings, I think the Forbes rankings are a better measure of schools.
All college rankings, however, are flawed and should be used simply as a way to explore a wider group of schools. Using the rankings as tip sheets can be especially helpful when exploring liberal arts colleges and master’s level universities since they don’t have the visibility that many intense research universities enjoy.
Through YOUniversity, LinkedIn offers a variety of tools that can help develop a college list.
College Navigator is a massive federal depository of information on thousands of colleges and universities that allows you to search for schools based on such criteria as location, majors and types of institutions.
To generate a list of schools in a particular major, head to the College Navigator’s home page. When you’re on the site, look on the left-hand side and click on the rectangle that says
Browse for Programs.
Princeton Review’s Best Colleges Guide
To get some sense of whether professors are doing a good job of educating students, I recommend focusing on a couple of overlooked statistics in the Princeton Review’s annual best colleges guide.
Specifically, you should check out this pair of ratings that you will see on the left hand page of every institution’s profile in the book:
• Professor interesting rating
• Professor accessible rating
The highest possible score for each of these professor ratings is 100. Students rate the professors at their own institutions. I want to emphasize that these rating are not scientific.
According to the Princeton Review, roughly 30,000 students were surveyed, which breaks down to about 120 respondents per campus.
One reason why I think these ratings are worth consulting is because of the pronounced
patterns that I’ve always noticed over the years when reviewing the school scores in these guides. Here are the pronounced trends that I’ve:
• Professors at liberal arts colleges receive much higher marks than professors at universities (including the Ivy League schools).
• Professors at private universities receive better marks than professors at state universities.
• Professors at state flagships — most of the public institutions in the book are in this category – fare the worst.
Colleges That Change Lives
For many years, Colleges That Change Lives has been one of the biggest selling books in the college niche. This slim book is an excellent resource if you want to discover mostly little-known liberal arts colleges and to generate ideas for college lists.
Only 2% to 3% of college students attend liberal arts colleges, which I happen to think are special places.
The 40 schools featured in the book also maintain a website and conduct college fairs in major cities throughout the year.
ScholarshipStats.com is a spartan-looking website, but it’s packed with athletic scholarship
statistics for specific schools, as well as for each sport at large.
The average sports scholarship, according to ScholarshipsStats.com is less than $7,000.
High school athletes have about a 2% chance of earning a sports scholarship.
When you click on any sport while you are on the website, you will see what schools offer each sport for men, women or both genders, as well as the roster size and the average scholarship amount.
College Majors 101
The goal of College Majors 101 is to inform students about dozens of college majors so they can make informed college and career choices. College Majors 101 provides information in the following categories for each college major featured on the website:
• In-depth description of the major
• Employers which hire within the major
• Accredited schools that provide the major
• News articles pertinent to the major
• Publications related to the major
• Students competitions related to the major
• Relevant student associations
• Recruiting opportunities
COLLEGE MAJOR CHANNELS
Each college major has a channel that includes links to all the above information. Schools
that pay can have their logo and link on the main page.
I suspect that College Confidential is a wildly popular site primarily for its feature called the Parent Forum. Teenagers and parents visit the site to post questions and comments about a wide variety of college issues. What’s also attractive for visitors is the ability to share thoughts and questions about individual colleges and universities. The discussion boards dedicated to elite schools typically enjoy more visitor traffic. Keep in mind that while some of the information that you’ll see in the forums is solid, some of it is just plain wrong.
Virtual Campus Tours
Families can’t always visit schools in advance of applying, but virtual tour sites can help you see what a school looks like without an in-person tour.
Here are links to four virtual tour websites that not only provide tours for the most
prominent schools but also to those that are less known:
Niche (formerly College Prowler)
On this site, you can find more than a million student reviews of colleges. Niche has broken up the reviews by categories so you can check, for instance, what students think of such things as their school’s academics, campus, athletics, Greek life and the food.
You can learn a lot just by poking around school websites. Don’t just stop at the pages intended for prospective students. Dig deeper and visit the web homes of academic departments.
Take a look at the course listings to see what is actually offered each semester.
Make sure you stop by a school’s Institutional Research page where you can find all sorts of interesting data.
Also look for student blogs, as well as those from people with knowledge of the school.
Creators of unauthorized blogs can be much more candid.
College is a buyer’s market!
Most schools don’t meet their freshmen admission goals!
Click Here: What is your biggest concern about the college application process?
Join me, Chris Hitchens, IECA Counselor on.....
- Thursday March 7 at Jefferson Hills Library: For High School Athletes, Play Sports in College: How to Get Yourself Recruited
- Thursday March 14 at Whitehall Library: College Admissions 101: What Every Family Needs to Know about Financial Aid and Scholarships
- Wednesday March 20 at South Park Library: Athletes and Artists: How They Both Can Follow the Same Path to Find Their Dream College
- Tuesday March 26 at Bethel Park Library: Musicians, Thespians, Dancers, Cheerleaders, Majorettes, & all other Artists: Find Your Dream College
- Thursday April 11 at South Park Library: College Admissions 101: What Every Family Needs to Know about Financial Aid and Scholarships
- Thursday May 2 at Baldwin Library: Musicians, Thespians, Dancers, Cheerleaders, Majorettes, & all other Artists: Find Your Dream College
- Tuesday May 14 at Baldwin Library: For High School Athletes, Play Sports in College: How to Get Yourself Recruited
- Saturday May 18 at Baldwin Library: College Essay Workshop for Juniors
- Thursday May 23 at Baldwin Library: 12 Strategies Necessary to Get Into Tier 1 Colleges, Including the Ivy League