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5 Highly Effective Tools for Researching Colleges Posted on:Thursday, October 4th, 2012


Finding the right college can be a painstaking process.  Thankfully with the internet, researching and narrowing your college selections is a great deal easier.  Everything you ever wanted to know is right at your fingertips. You can even attend virtual campus tours now thanks to such sites as Campus Tours.  I wanted to share what I have found to be 5 highly effective websites for researching your college dream list. If you’re wondering what to look for in a college some common things to consider are:

  • Cost of Tuition and Fees
  • Graduation Rates
  • Financial Aid Patterns
  • Programs/Majors

College Navigator is a great site for a brief look at all of the above.  A particularly neat feature is being able to determine the Net Price of a college. The Net Price gives you an idea of what families ACTUALLY pay (minus federal and state aid) in tuition by income level.  Here’s a look at data from UCLA:

Net Price

Average Net Price for Full-Time Beginning Students





Average net price       $12,755   $13,736    $14,474

The University of California’s financial aid programs are designed to make a UC education accessible to students at every income level. For California residents, the cost of attendance – which includes in-state tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and other expenses – is fully covered through a combination of the federal Parent Contribution (for dependent students), a student self-help contribution, and grants and scholarships. Many students receive grants to help cover costs in addition to tuition and fees, and many students with parent incomes above $80,000 also qualify for financial aid. For more information about financial aid at UC, see http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/admissions/paying.html

Full-time beginning undergraduate students who paid the in-state or in-district tuition rate and were awarded Title IV aid by income.

Average net price by Income




$0 – $30,000   $7,506   $8,545   $8,572
$30,001 – $48,000   $8,331   $9,921   $9,720
$48,001 – $75,000   $13,190   $14,210   $13,309
$75,001 – $110,000   $19,706   $20,832   $21,345
$110,001 and more   $22,971   $25,248   $25,821


College Completion, created by the Chronicle of Higher Education, is a great site for comparing graduation rates among various colleges.  If you are attending college on a budget it helps to know on average how long it will take you to complete your education.  In 2010 68% of students graduated from UCLA in 4 years while 89.8% graduated in 6 years.  Take a look at the US National Average for students graduating from public universities in 4 years: It’s only 31.3%!

More than half (56.6%) of students attending public colleges today, graduate in approximately 6 years. This data reflects students entering college as freshmen and does not account for transfer students, which could extend the life of the average college education even more.

Collegedata’s College Match is a great tool for getting detailed financial information about a school. For example, you can find data regarding:

  • The average percentage of need that a school meets in its financial aid packages
  • The average student loan debt accumulated for graduates
  • The % of students who receive merit-based aid vs. need-based aid
  • The average award given to students

College Board is a great site for researching potential majors and colleges. There are a number of assessment tools that can help you explore majors and potential career pathways.  There are also tools to help you narrow your college list based on your goals and interests.

Ever wonder what students themselves say about their college experience?  College Prowler offers discussion boards on just about any related topic imaginable all from the perspective of college students.  This is a great way to get the inside scoop on colleges especially when you may not be able to visit and talk with current students.


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