Why are college search tools so valuable? With over 3,900 accredited colleges and universities in the United States, choosing the right school can be an overwhelming task. However, online college search tools can simplify the process by allowing you to filter your options based on location, size, cost, available majors, and even graduation rates.
To assist you in creating a shortlist of your favorite schools, we have compiled a list of the best college search engines based on their usability and the quality of information they provide. Here are the top 10 tools listed in alphabetical order:
1. Campus Pride Index
The Campus Pride Index is a searchable database offered by Campus Pride, a leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating safer learning environments for LGBTQ+ students.
This tool allows students to search for colleges based on location and type. Each result is rated up to five stars, indicating how inclusive and welcoming the school is for LGBTQ+ students.
Unique Feature: The Campus Pride Index’s rating system helps you quickly find LGBTQ+-friendly colleges.
2. College Board’s BigFuture
The College Board, a reputable nonprofit organization, offers the BigFuture tool to help students prepare for college. This comprehensive database allows you to create a targeted list of potential colleges based on your interests and career goals.
By providing information about your grades, test scores, and interests, BigFuture generates a list of “safety” and “reach” schools and helps you keep track of application deadlines. Additionally, it offers a scholarship search tool that automatically matches you with potential opportunities when you create an account.
Unique Feature: The BigFuture dashboard provides a centralized platform to create your college shortlist, manage applications, and apply for financial aid.
CollegeData, provided by 1st Financial Bank, is a free college search tool and scholarship database. It allows you to create a profile and build a list of potential colleges based on various criteria, including student body size, type of school, selectivity, graduation rate, available merit aid, and available sports.
Once you create an account, you also gain access to additional tools such as the financial aid comparison tool, which helps you compare financial aid packages from different schools.
Unique Feature: CollegeData’s standout feature is its financial aid tracker, which provides information on the financial aid awarded by each college in the past.
4. College Scorecard
The College Scorecard, developed by the U.S. Department of Education, is a free tool that allows you to search for schools based on name, location, field of study, or selectivity. It offers in-depth information about each college, including graduation rates, average annual cost, and median earnings of graduates.
Unique Feature: The College Scorecard provides detailed information about financial aid and student debt for recent graduates.
5. College XPress
College XPress is a free platform that offers a college search function, rankings, and a database of scholarships and grants worth over $7 billion.
Creating an account allows you to save and revisit your college list and track your scholarship applications. It also provides an option for colleges to reach out to you based on your profile.
Unique Feature: College XPress allows you to express your interest in colleges online and receive recruitment offers based on your profile.
Niche is a company that provides information about schools at all levels of education. Their college search tool offers detailed information about colleges and universities nationwide, along with rankings in various categories.
You can filter the rankings based on area of study, location, size, selectivity, religious affiliation, average starting salary, and even online friendliness for virtual learning options.
Unique Feature: Niche includes thousands of real student and alumni reviews to provide insights into the student experience at different schools.
7. The Princeton Review
The Princeton Review, known for its college rankings, offers a powerful online college search tool. You can filter schools by location, size, major, institution type, campus setting, activities, and even academics based on standardized test scores and GPA.
Unique Feature: The Princeton Review’s search tool includes filters such as activities and standardized test scores that are not commonly found in other search engines.
TuitionTracker allows you to search for colleges based on location, degree type, major, and size. What sets TuitionTracker apart is its detailed information on the cost of each school.
In addition to providing the current sticker price, TuitionTracker shows you the typical net price paid by students after deducting financial aid. It even allows you to estimate how much of the tuition you would have to cover based on your household income.
Unique Feature: TuitionTracker’s net price tool helps you estimate your out-of-pocket expenses based on your household income.
Unigo offers a unique approach to the college search process. Instead of selecting filters, you answer questions about yourself in a short quiz. Based on your responses, Unigo matches you to potential schools.
In addition to college details, Unigo provides unbiased reviews from recent students. It also has a database of over 3 million scholarships and grants that match your profile.
Unique Feature: Unigo’s database of scholarships and grants helps you find funding opportunities tailored to your profile.
If you’re new to the college search process, Peterson’s College Search tool is a great starting point. The College Discovery Center provides pre-made lists of schools categorized by major or field.
Additionally, you can use the search function to narrow down results by major, location, or keywords. Peterson’s offers filtering functionality similar to its competitors.
Unique Feature: Peterson’s provides additional resources for test preparation and scholarships, making it a comprehensive resource.
Reflecting on Your College Preferences
The college admissions process can feel overwhelming, but using college search tools can help you find schools that match your preferences based on location, cost, activities, and graduation rates.
To make the most of these tools, start by identifying your “must-haves” in a college experience. Consider factors such as living arrangements, class sizes, personal attention from professors, desired majors, extracurricular activities, and distance from home.
Once you have a clear idea of what you want in a college, use the search tools to create a list of potential schools. Use the provided tips to compare colleges and select the one that best fits your needs.