Finding Great Colleges: A Handy Cheat Sheet

I am in Paris this week — at the tail end of a family vacation visiting my daughter, who is studying this year at the University of Barcelona. I’d rather be out exploring Paris and eating chocolate so I’m rerunning one of my favorite posts that explains how students can find wonderful colleges that might not normally be on their radar.

Hope you enjoy….

—Lynn O’Shaughnessy

Where do you find great colleges?

I hear that question all the time.

You can pour through the big fat college guides from folks like the Princeton Review and Fiske, but they ignore most schools. For instance, Princeton Review’s latest guide covers 371 schools, but there are more than 2,200 four-year colleges and universities in this country.

What I’m going to quickly share with you today is one valuable resource, America’s Best Colleges from Forbes Magazine, that people can use to find hidden educational gems in their own regions.

The rankings created by Forbes and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity include many colleges that the guidebooks don’t cover.

What  I find especially helpful for teenagers searching for colleges is that the college rankings are also broken down by four regions– Northeast, Midwest, South and West.  A lot parents don’t want their teens going to college too far from home, but often they don’t know what schools exist beyond the public institutions in their own state.

This week, I sent the Midwest college list to my niece who lives in St. Louis and the Western list to my nephew who lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

The Western list includes instantly recognizable schools like Cal Tech and Stanford, but other highly ranked institutions include College of Idaho, George Fox University and St. Mary’s College of California. The latter two were ranked higher than UCLA or Berkeley. The Midwestern list includes such overlooked jewels as Doane College in Nebraska, College of Wooster in Ohio and Earlham College in Indiana.

I can’t emphasize enough that families, who want to cut the cost of college, need to cast wider nets. Many colleges off the beaten path provide huge scholarships for students. It is definitely worth taking a look.

Here are some of my other posts that should help with your college search:

The Real Best Colleges

The Best Colleges You’ve Never Heard Of

Why US News’ Colleges Rankings Are a Joke

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch. Follow her on Twitter.

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  1. Hi Lynn –
    enjoy your blog. Great information. Daughter is a Soph/son will be a freshman next year. I was looking for info/articles on the advantages/disadvantages of going to a Junior College the first 2-years instead of jumping into a 4-year institution. Have you done any research/opinions on that topic.
    thank you.