Find It Fast

Searching for Colleges

When searching for colleges, students should consider the primary aspects of what is a potential “best fit” with a college. These best-fit pieces include the emotional, social, financial, academic and personal factors in researching colleges.

Part of the emotional aspect is that students feel comfortable on a campus. Feeling comfortable at college might include finding other students they connect with and/or the location of the school. Students should hopefully have a gut feeling that they can picture themselves on the campus and the environment is one that feels more natural.

Socially means that students might believe that the student body and/or surrounding campus community is a positive opportunity. Other parts of a social fit might include making connections with students from a particular background or developing mutual interests in common.

The financial aspect is that the student and family feel comfortable with the total cost of attendance.  The total cost of attendance (tuition, room and board, books, fees, personal expenses such as travel) is significant to consider; families should especially focus on the actual cost after financial aid packages (including potential merit-based awards and need-based assistance through FAFSA) are offered.

Academic reasons when searching for colleges can also be important. In fact, college is higher education and a big reason for choosing to enroll in additional school is the future learning inside the classroom. We recommend that students consider their potential areas of study that interest them. Keep in mind that most students enter college as “undecided” majors and a high percentage of students change their major after enrolling in college. If students are interested in more selective direct admission programs (e.g., business, nursing, health sciences, engineering), they should understand how each college reviews applications for these smaller majors along with alternative freshman admission opportunities.

Personal factors when researching colleges may only pertain to you. For example, this might include colleges with a particular distance from home, religious life on or near campus or particular accommodations inside or outside the classroom.

Students are highly encouraged to search for colleges through Naviance along with other online resources. Naviance offers many options to search for colleges. College lookup might be a nice place to begin research, in general. Type in a college that you want to learn more about in order to access the college’s Naviance page. Reference our video tutorial on the newer Naviance features.

Scattergrams within Naviance is another way to learn about specific admissions data from previous SHS students. These graphs currently show the average GPA and test scores (users can choose either composite ACT scores or SAT scores), among the students who have applied to that school.  In addition, your GPA and standardized test score (if you have taken it previously) should appear as a circle on the individual college Scattergram. The legend below the graph also indicates other SHS students who have been accepted, waitlisted and denied.

Another wonderful online college search tool is BigFuture. This College Board resource allows students to search for colleges with specified filters. Some filters include the type of school, location, majors offered, student life, cost and campus student support services. BigFuture also includes information on exploring careers, financial aid resources and application topics.