How To Compare & Research Colleges Online 2020: Tools and Websites

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How To Compare & Research Colleges Online 2020: Tools and Websites

Preparing to go to college can be a drag. This gearing up can take from months to years. A lot of questions come to mind when comparing and research colleges to attend online. Of course, there are so many colleges online, and choosing the one that is right for you can seem like an overwhelming decision.

It is a good idea to compare several different colleges side by side before you make a final decision about the best degree program for you online.

So, in this post, we’ll cover the best tools for comparing colleges as of this writing. All of the tools on this list will help you research your best options for colleges as well as graduate and professional schools.

Starting Out: What Are The Best Sites to Start Your College Research?

Starting out your college search online can be quite confusing.

Should you attend an in-state or out-of-state school?

Does the school you’ve wanted to go to since high school have the program you’d like to study?

Can you afford it? Are there scholarships? Will your SAT or ACT scores get you into the college of your choice?

One way to answer these questions is to have several options and then compare colleges online to know which options.

So, here are the best data-driven websites to help you in comparing colleges online to get your ideal fit when starting out your college research.

CollegeSimply

CollegeSimply enables you to enter your GPA, SAT, and ACT scores, they also give you recommendations on schools you can get into when you apply.

Further, they also categorize schools by state, application deadlines, the most selective, and the least selective so you can make decisions that suit you.

College Scorecard

The College Scorecard is a website managed by the United States Department of Education. They have a very easy interface that enables you to enter your zip code or the state you want to attend school in.

After that, you can enter the major you desire and use a sliding scale to choose a tuition range. Once you enter these parameters, the scorecard will give you results of the schools you should apply to, including how much you can anticipate making with the type of degree registered.

College Board’s BigFuture

Over the years, the College Board has been the go-to resource for college data and comparison. They now have a tool called BigFuture which enables you to analyze colleges, examine how much a college degree will cost you, find the best school for what you desire to major in, get forecasts on what you can make with your major, as well as learn how to get financial assistance and scholarships for school.

By far, it’s one of the most extensive college matching tools on this list. However, to use BigFuture, you will have to generate a free account on the College Board website.

College Insight

If you’re a more scientifically minded person, college Insight will probably interest you. You have the opportunity to commence your search with a particular college, a topic that pleases you, or with building your own table of several variables to examine schools across any metric you choose. 

Furthermore, this site holds a huge number of data for every school that covers variables such as the economic and racial differences of the student body and general statistics on debt and financial assistance. This is a useful resource for comparing colleges side by side based on hard data. You can pick a “focus” school and a “comparison” school, also the site will list the data for each school in table format. It’s a great way to get an objective perspective on what each school is like.

However, if you’re not interested in looking at a bunch of data you may find this site to be amazing, but if you’re looking for an easy way to compare school stats without having to create a profile this is the place to go.

College Navigator

College Navigator is a college research tool managed by the National Center for Education Statistics.

It’s a simple tool that enables you to research schools by state, whether it is two-year or four-year, public or private. Based on what enter, you get a list of results that can craft your decision.

The Inside Scoop: What Are The Sites With the Best Student Feedback and College Matchmaking?Cappex

If you plan on using scholarships to reduce (or totally avoid) student loan debt, this is the tool to check out. Cappex is a tool that has information on $11 billion in scholarships across 4,000 various colleges.

As an added reward, you can partner with an admissions advisor on Cappex to assist you to navigate the college and scholarship application process. You can even get assistance with essays that could land you in the college of your dreams.

Chegg

Chegg is a famous website for renting and buying textbooks at premium prices. But, they also have a tool that enables you to research over 25,000 scholarships

You get deadlines, the scholarship amounts, and also, the GPA you need to have to apply for the scholarship. You can also use Chegg to research over 6,000 colleges and universities.

Niche

Niche’s college rankings provide rankings based on the state, major, and campus life, especially in the U.S. Therefore, if you want to attend a college based on the party life or Greek culture, Niche is the answer.

Note: the rankings that have to do with campus life are given by students attending the school. So if you desire to gain insight from real students like you, this tool will aid in your research. Also, Niche provides information on the best community colleges to attend as well.

College Confidential

Aside from using this tool to compare colleges, College Confidential has student forums and student ratings of schools.

If you intend to chat with people at particular schools, you can join the forums on College Confidential and find out things you need to know.

Unigo

Unigo is another college comparison tool that follows the suit of several tools already on this list. A unique feature of Unigo, however, is that they have 14 scholarships you can apply for immediately on their website. You can win up to $10,000 in scholarship money for school.

That alone makes it worth checking out.

Taking Action: What Are The Best Sites to Learn About Paying for and Applying to College? #1 Peterson’s

The Peterson’s college comparison tool is another great tool to consider in your college search.

If you intend to go through an internship or co-op while in college, Peterson’s can assist you to find one of those too.

#2 Fastweb

Fastweb focuses on assisting students to search for scholarships, but it will also assist you to find colleges that may please you. You can set up an account for free that will enable you to locate colleges and scholarships that suit your specific needs. 

There are also helpful blog articles on the site as well that have information on scholarships and colleges.

Furthermore, you can also search for student loans on Fastweb – you just have to answer some questions and you’ll get a list of all your loan options.

It also has resources for career preparation and finding internship opportunities as well. If you’re practically-minded and are earnest about finding scholarships, you should definitely try this site out.

However, you may want to use another platform for the college search process because Fastweb doesn’t have as much information or tools for finding colleges as it does for finding scholarships and loans. 

#3 The Princeton Review

The Princeton Review is well recognized for assisting millions of students study for standardized tests of all sorts. It also has a powerful college comparison and research tool to assist you to find the school that suits your needs.

#4 U.S. News College Compass

College Compass is a tool by the famous rankings website, U.S. News & World Report. You will have to create an account to use College Compass.

Once you create an account, you will be able to filter through over 1,900 institutions depending on your test scores, clubs and organizations, college size, and much more.

#5 Best College Reviews

Best College Reviews says, focus their rankings on online college programs. They do this with the understanding that not all students succeed within a traditional institution, and that some may learn better under the conditions of electronic education. It is their firm belief that online programs give a hereto unexplored avenue to success.”

So if you would rather register in an online college program, this tool is for you.

How To Begin Your College Search

Your mind is probably spinning from all of these choices. So, let’s make simpler. The sites described in this section are the best ones for beginning your college search.

So, I’ll explain exactly how to use them to compare colleges effectively in your search.

Step 1: Develop a Preliminary List of Schools With Cappex

As stated above, Cappex is an excellent site that assists you to figure out your choice of schools you’re and which fit you well. Below are the steps to get the most out of Cappex.

1. Create a profile 

You’ll answer so many questions about your college choices including location, size, selectivity, and religious affiliation as well as questions about your GPA and scores. This gives the site an idea of what colleges may suit your needs. You also have the chance to enter schools that interest you if you already have choices in mind. 

2. Play around with your Dashboard:

This is where you’ll see all the colleges that might suit your choices. You’ll be required to select a region and a major so that the results are more tailored to you. You can also choose undecided if you aren’t sure what you want to major in yet). You’ll see a slider of different schools that looks like this:

If you hover above any of the schools, you’ll perceive an at-a-glance stats panel that shows you whether the school is public or private, its tuition rates, and the number of students. The first row of schools is for colleges that may interest you.

The second row is for colleges that have an interest in you based on your level of high school achievement. 

3. Click on the link inside the stats panel for any school that catches your interest. 

Immediately you get to the next page, you’ll have a ton of information at your fingertips. One important feature that you apparently want to check first is “Your Fit”, which is the fourth button down on the left side panel. This gives you a simple way to tell if the college pairs up well with the choices you indicated in your profile.

4. Explore the college a little more. 

Think about other things that are relevant to you and whether they go well with what the college offers. You’ll see that in each college profile you can comb through a large database of information by clicking on the choices on the left. Categories cover everything from campus life to student reviews to application deadlines.

Before all the information confuses you, try making a list of what you think will make you happy at college and target your browsing to the areas that matter most to you. 

5. If you’re feeling really good about a school, you can add it to the running list of colleges that is a part of your Cappex profile. 

Just click the “yes” button at the top of the screen where it asks if you have an interest in the school. This will also notify the school you have an interest in.

If you fill out your profile fully, Cappex will also give you your opportunities for admission to a college if you click on “yes & calculate my chances”.

6. Apply to schools

After you’re happy with your list, you can apply to schools by clicking on the “apply to college” link beneath every list entry. This will send you directly to the admissions site for the school and make it easy for you to start your application. 

Step 2: Refine Your College List Using Chegg

After making a preliminary list of colleges with Cappex, we suggest next using Chegg to refine your list and see if there are any schools you didn’t check. Below are the steps for getting the most out of Chegg.

1. Login through Facebook or sign up manually for a profile. 

Ensure you fill out as much information as you can in your profile so that your college matches will be as perfect as possible. 

2. Search for schools by name or sort schools by your preferences.

To search, click on the “Colleges” tab at the top of the screen, and you’ll get to a page where you can search for schools by name or sort schools by your choices. However, you can also look at lists of schools that are made available for you on the site based on student ratings for various things like “best food” or “most beautiful campus”.

More so, you should also look at your “Matches”, which are colleges chosen for you based on the choices you indicated in your profile. Just switch to the matches tab by clicking on it at the top of the screen:

3. Explore the statistics and ratings.

Once you see a college that looks encouraging, go to the page for the school, and start examining the statistics and ratings. You can even look at your odds of admission based on your GPA and scores.

Again, I would suggest writing down some factors that are essential to you for a college before you dive into the stats so that you have a more focused approach. I think a good thing about this site is that it doesn’t go too heavy on the nitty-gritty statistics.

It boils it down to the basic things you probably want to know and also gives you a perspective from real students.

4. Add any college you think sounds good to your list of schools. 

Once you add a college to your list, you will have the opportunity to fill out the information that will enable colleges you are interested in to contact you.

You can then compare up to five schools side by side depending on scores, admission requirements, tuition, and other basic facts. This should aid you to narrow your search down significantly. 

Step 3: Search for Scholarships Using Fastweb

Fastweb is the best way to find scholarships, which is a super important part of the college application process. You can also find colleges on Fastweb, but it’s not as streamlined as the other options. We recommend using Fastweb after you’ve used Cappex and Chegg to get a list of colleges you’re interested in applying to.

1. Fill out a free profile

Fill out a free profile, giving as many details as possible about your interests and strengths as possible. This will assist you to get matched to scholarships that are suitable for your specific talents. 

2. Click on “see my matches” in your profile

Click on “see my matches” in your profile to see all the scholarships that are available to you:

You can classify scholarships by deadline, amount, and provider. This is an awesome resource – instead of traversing the internet, you can see all your potential scholarships here. 

3. Choose scholarships

If you click on the link for a scholarship and think you’re interested, use the dropdown menu on the right to mark it as one that you “might apply” or “will apply” to; this will add it to your list below one of those tabs. This will make it simple for you to keep track of the scholarships that interest you and which ones you assured yourself you would apply for (because we all understand how easy it is to say you’re going to apply and how difficult it is to actually follow through). 

4. Search for colleges

You can also use this site to search for colleges (switch to the “colleges” tab at the top of the screen) and generate a list of schools you have interest in. The list will look related to the scholarship matches page:

As I mentioned, the college search features on this site aren’t quite as extensive as the others because there’s no way to match schools and there aren’t as many student reviews or user-friendly statistics. You CAN use it to make a list, but I’d say Fastweb is often for scholarships. 

5. start looking into your student loan options

If you want, start looking into your student loan options! This is a very daunting process that is made simpler by the Student Lending Center feature under the Student Loans section of Fastweb.

You can also get help with navigating the financial assistance process under the Financial Aid tab and finding internships under the Career Planning tab. Essentially, for anything involving the practical interests associated with college, Fastweb is the best place to go.  

FAQsIs it bad to apply to a lot of colleges?

If you apply to more than that, you’re probably going to make the application process too stressful and time-consuming.

How many colleges should I apply to?

In general, most students apply to 7-10 colleges. This is a good number to aim for, assuming that the applications you submit represent a broad variety of colleges.

What is a good SAT score?

What Is a Good SAT Score? A perfect SAT score is 1600. The minimum score is 400. And the average for the class of 2018 was 1068.

Is applying to 16 colleges too much?

While there’s no cap on the number of schools you can apply to, most students can apply to more than 20 or 30 colleges.

Conclusion

College search is a challenging, sometimes complex process, particularly when you’re not sure where to begin. We’ve provided the top tools and sites for comparing colleges online that fit your needs. Just be honest with yourself and objective, you’ll end up making a great decision! 

References

The College Investor

Prep Scholar

College Raptor

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