12 Ways to Find and Research Colleges

How do you locate good colleges and universities?

I get that question a lot. Today I want to share some online resources to find and research schools. In no particular order, here are resources to check out:

1. Do-It-Yourself College Rankings.

Do-It-Yourself College Rankings is the creation of Michelle Kretzschmar, the mother of a college student, who has a background in data analysis. In addition to her wonderful college blog, she has created a valuable college spreadsheet that can help you find schools based on your own criteria.

Here are two posts that I’ve written about Michelle’s site:

Do-It-Yourself College Rankings

Do-It-Yourself College Rankings, Part II

2. College Completion microsite

With help from the Gates Foundation, The Chronicle of Higher Education created the College Completion microsite within the trade publication’s website that provides a wide variety of graduation statistics for schools. The site, which I will discuss more in a separate post, also allows you to easily compare different institutions.

3. College Results Online

College Results Online used to be my favorite site to look up school grad rates, as well as generate college ideas, until I learned about the Chronicle resource. Here is a post that I’ve written about the site:

Getting Ideas for a College List

4. COLLEGEdata

This site provides tons of information about individual schools in such areas as financial aid, majors, admission factors and more. Here is one of the posts that I’ve written about COLLEGEdata

Reading a College Admission Officer’s Mind

5. Center for College Affordability and Productivity

This education think tank created the methodology for Forbes college rankings, which I think are more legit than the ones produced by US News.  All college rankings, however, are flawed. The center just released the magazine’s 2012 college rankings. Use these lists to generate ideas – don’t assume that the number assigned to each school means anything.  For the 2011 rankings, as well as earlier ones, you can find the rankings broken down by region, which I find extremely helpful. Here is a post that I wrote about this site:

Using College Rankings to Find Great Schools

6. College Prowler and Unigo.

College Prowler and Unigo are repositories for student reviews of their schools. They can be quite illuminating.

7. School websites.

You can learn a lot just by poking around these websites. Don’t stop at the pages intended for prospective students. Dig deeper and visit the web homes of  academic departments.

8. Institutional Research web pages.

Schools can park all sorts of interesting data on their institutional research pages.  Few do as good a job as St. Olaf College in Minnesota which shares graduation outcomes, its Collegiate Learning Assessment scores, its results from the National Survey of Student Engagement and more.

9. College search engines.

There are lots of websites that contain college search engines. They include the College Board, Student Advisor and Petersons.

10. College Navigator

This federal website has a helpful college search engine that allows you to search for schools based on such criteria as location, majors and types of institutions.  Here are two posts that I’ve written about this site:

College Navigator: Checking a College’s Generosity

What Colleges Have Your Major?

11. College Portrait of Undergraduate Research

You’ll find information on more than 300 public universities and colleges on this site. College Portrait provides basic information about schools and also shares data from the National Survey of Student Engagement.

12. U-CAN: University and College Accountability Network

U-CAN is a similar consumer site for more than 800 private institutions that’s sponsored by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. The site would have been more helpful if it included learning outcomes and results from the National Survey of Student Engagement.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of the second edition of The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price.




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