Searching for a College? Resources to Help

If you or your child is considering college, it’s never too early to get informed. With more information available than ever before, here are some resources to use as a starting point.

Each resource has its own set of measurements, but each also has its own limitations; make sure you know what those limitations are.

The U.S. Department of Education recently released the College Scorecard. It is an easy-to-use, friendly format to view and contains many of the measures and listings of factors to consider.

Recently, though, the Washington Post wrote that more than 700 colleges are missing from the new scorecard.

Only 20 of Alabama’s two-year public colleges are included. The article from the Washington Post lists the statistical reasons one in four community colleges were excluded.

It’s a great source, just make sure you understand it’s not 100% complete. Authors of the Washington Post article caution users to not infer anything about the quality of the college just because it isn’t on the list.

NPR also wrote about how the scorecard is great with data, but not so great in capturing the flavor of a campus.

While a bit clumsier to use, College Navigator, also produced by the U.S. Department of Education, provides the same information and allows you to save your search results and export them to a spreadsheet.

Here’s a video tutorial on how to use College Navigator.

Neither college counselor we interviewed said that popular college rankings, including U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review, were of value to their students, but they could serve as a place to start if you’re just getting started.

The College Board (of Advanced Placement and SAT fame) has put together a useful web site to help students and their families know what factors to consider and in which order.

College Results Online, from the Education Trust, offers basic information about the makeup of the student body, completion and retention rates. This site does allow you to find “test-optional” schools which do not require standardized college-entrance exam scores. While less clumsy than College Navigator, it contains most of the same information.

Affordable Colleges Online is chock-full of information about online offerings, also called distance learning programs, at traditional brick-and-mortar colleges as well as not-for-profit colleges. Resources are included to help navigate the world of online colleges.