College Search Tools and Tips To Help You Find the Right School

With over 4,000 colleges and universities across the US, narrowing down your list can feel overwhelming. Is it even possible to create a shortlist of 10 or even 20 best-match colleges? Where do you start? These college search tools and tips will help you get started.

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How Do You Get Started on Your College Search?

 Starting a college search without really knowing what you are looking for is an exercise in futility. How can you find the right college if you don’t really know what you and or need in a school? It’s important to complete a few steps and answer a few questions before you dive right in.

1.Talk To Your Guidance Counselor

After several years of interacting with students applying to colleges, guidance counselors have a wealth of knowledge you can tap into. It’s important, especially in your junior and senior years, to schedule meetings with them to go over your wants and needs in a college. They can give you plenty of recommendations on schools, as well as tips to help you improve your applications.

2. Visit College Fairs

College fairs are a great place to get an idea of some schools in your area and across the country. They provide pamphlets and have registration sheets if you’d like to be contacted with more information. Some high schools and local colleges will even host them!

College fairs are also the perfect opportunity to meet with representatives from various schools. They’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about the college they represent. They can also provide tips for their admission processes and give you their contact information if you have any follow up concerns or questions.

Check with your high school or search online for upcoming college fair dates.

3. Ask Yourself the Right Questions

This is probably one of the most important steps you’ll need to take before you really start your college search. You need to ask yourself questions to identify what’s vital to you and your education. What do you want out of a school? What do you need?

Here are some questions to get started, but you might find some questions of your own that you want to add to the list!

  • Which career do I want to pursue? And, what major will help me enter that field and career?
  • What sports or extracurricular activities do I want to participate in as a college student?
  • Would I prefer to study on a city or rural campus?
  • Is a larger or smaller college more suitable for my personality?
  • Would I prefer smaller or larger classes?
  • Do I want to attend a college close to home or out of state? Or even further away?
  • What is my financial situation? How much money can I afford to put towards school and do I want to take out loans?

Understanding yourself better is the key to being able to find a college that will help you thrive and succeed both personally and professionally.

If you’re struggling to answer any of these questions, talk to your guidance counselor. You could even ask your parents or friends for their thoughts!

What is the Best Way to Search for Colleges?

College fairs, while great for getting an idea of schools, are not always the ideal place of research when it comes to your college search. Only so many colleges could attend after all, and representatives are trying to sell you on their college. And, if only local schools attended and you want to go out of state, you’re going to leave empty handed.

It’s also not really time friendly to just pick schools at random and research them. You’re wasting your time if they don’t have your major or are a large university when you wanted a smaller school.

College search tools (or college databases) are, instead, the recommended route! They allow you to input your personal information, wants, needs, goals, and achievements to supply you with the best schools available to you. The search tools will return with a list of colleges that are stretch schools (meaning you could get in, but it’s unlikely), safety schools (you’re almost guaranteed to get accepted), and schools you’re likely to get in (perfect fits for you).

If your needs or wants change further into your search, you can always change your information to get additional schools to sift through!

So instead of feeling overwhelmed with the multitude of options available to you, college search tools allow you to narrow your list down, giving you the information you need that’s relevant to you.

Take Advantage of College Raptor Tools

Did you know that College Raptor has several tools that will help you on your college search and beyond? Check them out below!

College Match

College Raptor’s College Match is designed to help you identify the best schools for you based on your needs, wants, goals, and achievements. You’ll just need a few bits of information to get started!

You will have to answer:

  • How many colleges you want to apply for
  • Gender
  • Zip code
  • State of residency

To narrow down your results further, you can also enter

  • The degree you’re after
  • Major(s) you’re interested in
  • Colleges you may already be interested in
  • Colleges you’ve already ruled out
  • Preferred college size
  • Preferred college location
  • Preferred college city size
  • Independent or not
  • High school graduation year
  • GPA
  • College entrance exams and score
  • Importance of college cost. If it’s important, you’ll be required to enter some basic financial information

The database will then return with valuable information and links based on the details you input! You can see your academic matches, the four year graduation rate for schools, net prices, acceptance odds, your “overall match” number, and links to each individual college and university.

See a school on the list you’re not interested in? You can delete it! You can also save colleges you like (or even love) to your profile.

College Search

Did you know you can simply search for schools at the top of our website? Hit the little search icon and input the college you’re interested in! You can view a ton of information including admission rates, costs, campus life, and more. And if you entered in your profile information, the pages will have additional financial and admission details for you!

Financial Aid Offer Comparison Tool

The college search doesn’t end once you send off those applications. When you get back acceptance letters, you have a little more work and comparisons to make.

Acceptance letters sometimes come with financial aid packages and offers. These can be complex and they often use confusing terminology. And it doesn’t help that every college uses a different format! On top of all this, what looks great on paper, may not actually be the best deal. A school that costs more may offer more money, but will cost more than the less expensive college that offered slightly less in their financial aid package. How can you possibly compare them when the information isn’t easy to follow?

College Raptor’s Financial Aid Offer Comparison Tool does the work for you. You can simply upload, text, or manually enter the financial aid offers you received. The program will then return with an easy-to-understand format that will compare your packages for you.

And More

College Raptor also offers a host of other tools and resources to help you on your college search and after. You can find resources including

Searching for colleges can definitely feel like a lot, but the right college search tools can make all the difference. Utilizing College Raptor’s resources can definitely take the headache, guesswork, and stress out of the journey!