Searching for the right college to attend is an exciting process! The goal is to find a college that is a good academic, social, emotional, and financial fit. Too often, our search begins with looking at the sticker price, not the discounted price. Doing so may eliminate good options. For example, some students could attend Harvard for free if their household income is below $65,000.
How can guidance counselors, college consultants, and parents conduct an effective college search using the Internet? Let’s start looking at some college search solutions for your student.
Some college search engines are available for a fee to the consumer like Naviance, Bridges (Xap), CollegePlannerPro, and others. Students can access these through a high school, state education site, or local independent consultant. Other service based companies may have a proprietary college planning software built specifically for their student client base. Fee-based search engines would be free from outside bias and offer general accountability resources for students.
Some college search engines are available for free to the consumer like Big Future, CollegeView, Princeton Review, and others. While free to use, some features may only be accessed by creating a profile. These free sites are generally marketing tools for colleges and college-data providers so they will have featured college sponsors and/or click-thru ads to generate revenue.
No matter what type of college search engine is used, students who visit the campus and discuss their options with a professional counselor or consultant will make better decisions about where to attend college.
The results of a college search matter! College search engines should allow the student to select multiple options for each search criteria. Limited searches may be leading students to view featured colleges (paid advertisers). While it’s perfectly okay for a college to market themselves, the featured ads may exclude colleges that are better academic or emotional fits. It’s more important for students to search with “or” and “and” rather than “only.” For example, a student may want to search for Southwest Region AND New York, urban OR suburban, physics AND dance, etc. versus only picking three states, one city size, and one major.
Here are some requirements for what I would believe is a good college search engine:
After your research, then you can have fun helping your students make informed, wise decisions. Success!
Through student ministry and educational consulting (career and college planning), I have enjoyed guiding teenagers to discover their higher calling.