10 Best College Search Tools for High School Students
Why are college search tools so valuable? There are over 3,900 degree-granting colleges and universities in the U.S., which can make choosing your school a daunting task. But an online college search tool can simplify things, letting you filter your options by location, size, cost, available majors and even graduation rates.
To help you get started on creating a shortlist of favorite schools, we have identified some of the best college search engines, based on their useability and information. Here they are in alphabetical order:
- 1. Campus Pride Index
- 2. College Board’s BigFuture
- 3. CollegeData
- 4. College Scorecard
- 5. College XPress
- 6. Niche
- 7. The Princeton Review
- 8. TuitionTracker
- 9. Unigo
- 10. Peterson’s
1. Campus Pride Index
The Campus Pride Index is a searchable database offered by Campus Pride, a leading national nonprofit organization focused on fostering safer learning environments for LGBTQ+ students.
The Campus Pride Index allows students to search for colleges based on location and type of school. Each result includes a rating of up to five stars, based on how inclusive and welcoming the school is for LGBTQ+ students.
Great feature: The Campus Pride Index’s rating system allows you to quickly find LGBTQ+-friendly colleges.
2. College Board’s BigFuture
The College Board is a well-known and reputable nonprofit organization that provides students with information about college admissions and financial aid.
As part of its focus on helping students prepare for college, the organization created the BigFuture tool. It’s an incredibly robust database that allows you to develop a targeted list of potential colleges based on your interests and career goals.
Using information you provide about your grades, test scores and interests, BigFuture will help you create a list of “safety” and “reach” schools, as well as track important application deadlines.
Besides its college search function, The College Board’s BigFuture also has a scholarship search tool. When you create an account, BigFuture will automatically match you with potential scholarship and grant opportunities.
Great feature: The BigFuture dashboard gives you one central place to create a shortlist of potential colleges, manage school applications and apply for financial aid.
CollegeData is a free-to-use college search tool and scholarship database, provided by 1st Financial Bank. You can create a profile and build a list of potential colleges based on the criteria you choose. Search filters include:
- Student body size
- Type of school (private or public)
- Graduation rate
- Available merit aid
- Available sports
Once you create an account, you also get access to other tools, such as the financial aid comparison tool. This tool makes it easier to compare financial aid letters from several schools, so you can get an idea of what your net price would be.
Great feature: CollegeData’s standout feature is its financial aid tracker, which complements its search tools. The tracker allows you to see how much financial aid each college awarded to students in the past, including how much of that aid was need-based or merit-based.
4. College Scorecard
The College Scorecard is a free tool designed by the U.S. Department of Education. It’s been updated and is easier to use than before, allowing you to search for schools by name, location, field of study or selectivity.
The College Scorecard can be an invaluable tool since it gives in-depth information about each college or university, so you can make an informed decision. You’ll find details about the school’s graduation rate, average annual cost and the median earnings of graduates — information that most other platforms don’t offer.
Great feature: Through the College Scorecard, you can view detailed information about financial aid and student debt for recent graduates.
5. College XPress
College XPress is a free platform that allows you to filter your search for colleges, browse rankings and find scholarships and grants via a database with more than $7 billion in available opportunities.
After you create an account, you’ll be able to sign back in later to revisit your college list or track your scholarship applications.
Great feature: When you create an account, you can let colleges know you’re interested online. And schools can even reach out to recruit you based on your profile.
Niche is a company that provides information about schools at every level of education, from kindergartens to doctoral programs.
Its detailed information about colleges and universities nationwide, is complemented by rankings of colleges in different categories. For example, you can view the best colleges for student athletes, the colleges with the best academics or the schools with the best college food.
You can filter the rankings area of study, location, size, selectivity, religious affiliation and even average starting salary after graduation. Unlike most other search tools, Niche also allows you to filter by online friendliness, so you can find top schools that offer virtual learning options.
Great feature: Niche has thousands of reviews from real students and alumni, so you can get a sense of what the student experience will be like at different schools.
7. The Princeton Review
The Princeton Review is a company best-known for its college rankings. Each year, it publishes its lists of the best national and regional colleges in the country.
However, the Princeton Review also has a powerful online college search tool. It’s free to use, and you can filter schools by location, size, major and institution type, as well as by…
- Campus setting: Choose from large urban, small urban, suburban, village or rural locales
- Activities: If you’re interested in a particular activity, such as a college television station or choral group, you can use the activity filter to find schools that run those programs.
- Academics: The Princeton Review even lets you filter by average SAT or ACT score and GPA, so you can find schools that best match your own grades and scores.
Great feature: The Princeton Review’s search tool has some filters that few other search engines have, such as activity and standardized test scores.
TuitionTracker allows you to search for colleges based on location, degree type, major and size.
What makes TuitionTracker special is its detailed information on how much you can expect to pay at each school. Not only does it provide the current sticker price, but it also gives you the typical net price students paid after deducting financial aid.
The tool allows you to enter your household income bracket so you can see what the net price was for students that matched your profile.
Great feature: TuitionTracker’s net price tool allows you to get an estimate of how much of the regular tuition price you’d have to cover based on your household income.
Unigo mixes up the traditional college search format. Instead of selecting filters, you’ll answer questions about yourself in a short quiz. Based on your responses, Unigo will match you to potential schools.
Unigo provides details about each college, and you can even read unbiased reviews from recent students.
Great feature: Besides its college search engine, Unigo also helps you find scholarships through its database of over 3 million awards. Unigo can connect you to scholarships and grants that match your profile.
If you’re new to the college search process, Peterson’s College Search tool could be a good starting point. Its College Discovery Center provides pre-made lists of schools, categorized by major or field.
You can also use the site’s search function to narrow your results by major, location or another keyword. From there, Peterson’s delivers the same filtering functionality as its competitors.
Great feature: Peterson’s is something of a one-stop shop, with additional resources for test preparation and scholarships.
Reflect on what you want in a college
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the college admissions process. But there are tools available that can help you narrow down schools based on location, cost, activities and graduation rates.
To make the most of those tools, it’s helpful to come up with a list of “must-haves” that you want in a college experience. To get started, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I want to live on-campus or off?
- How big of a class size am I comfortable with?
- Do I care if professors will know my name?
- What majors am I interested in?
- What sports or activities do I want to participate in while in college?
- How far from home do I want to be?
Once you’ve figured out what you want in a college, college search tools will allow you to find schools that best match your preferences. As you finalize your list, use these tips to compare colleges and select the one that’s best for you.