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College search tools?
Old 08-28-2011, 01:30 PM   #1
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College search tools?

Hi all,

I have a son who is a junior in high school. This year we need to figure out which colleges and universities he will apply to.

We have a tentative list of criteria. I'd like to run through some sort of online search tool and get back a list of schools that meet them.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

2Cor521
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Old 08-28-2011, 01:48 PM   #2
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The search at the College Board website (the SAT people) is as good a place to start as any.

I also strongly recommend visiting several nearby campuses of different types if possible. Both of our kids found out things they liked and didn't like through visits to schools they had no intention of actually attending (campus arrangement, size of school, etc.).

Good luck - have fun and don't get stressed about it - kids always seem to find a place that works for them.
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Old 08-28-2011, 02:15 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SecondCor521 View Post
Hi all,
I have a son who is a junior in high school. This year we need to figure out which colleges and universities he will apply to.
We have a tentative list of criteria. I'd like to run through some sort of online search tool and get back a list of schools that meet them.
Does anyone have any suggestions?
2Cor521
Oy, I hope you can do some quick campus visits over fall, holiday, & spring breaks.

College Confidential (teen-friendly and snarky):
College Search - College Confidential

Students Review (huge database of student commentary):
College Reviews: StudentsReview : Over 106200 College Reviews! (3,359 schools reviewed)

Princeton Review's Education & Career Opportunities System (guidance counselors like this):
ECOS - Students

College Board (where parents learn about the process):
Find a College - College Search - Majors and Careers

College Board scholarship search (where parents hope to pay for the process):
Scholarship Search - Find Scholarships Online Free - Grants, Internships

ROTC (stick with me on this one, even if he's not interested in the services):
ROTC.com

No matter how comfortable your son is with the selection process, I think it's essential that a prospective student tour the campus, attend a class, and possibly even stay overnight or at a multi-day in-residence program. Nothing sucks worse (and costs more) than finding a college, applying, getting accepted, and next September realizing that (for whatever reason is important to a teen) you're in the wrong place. The teen has to stand on the campus, look around with their hands on their hips, and say "Yeah, I can do this." Until then it's just an online game. On your money.

Your first campus visit can be a waste of time if you're still learning how to do a campus visit. The first thing you might want to do (this weekend!) is visit the closest state campus. The idea is to practice doing the tour, listening to the talk, and learning what questions to ask. (Make sure to see a dorm room and eat in the dining hall.) The visits all follow a similar format. Neither one of you guys knows what's important to you right now, but plonking yourselves down in the environment for an hour or two of practice will make a huge difference.

College fairs were a good opportunity to get our teen to focus on the concept. We had many interesting discussions in the car to & from the fair, and she helped refine her criteria. Otherwise the actual college fair is a legacy of the pre-Internet search process and a waste of time. The local campus visit (and any other college campus visit) is much more productive.

The advantage of the ROTC website is that it lists the nation's major colleges interested in hosting ROTC units. (Not all colleges have an ROTC unit on the campus, but rather the students commute to a nearby campus. For example Houston has five NROTC units at five different colleges all drilling on the Rice U campus.) The programs at the ROTC colleges have been deemed worthy of government tuition scholarships-- especially the engineering & science programs-- and their faculty tend to attract a lot of govt grants from DOE and DARPA. (Even at UC Berkeley!) The extra funding helps the quality of the degree and the facilities, and it's a self-fulfilling cycle.

The best thing about ROTC is that (unlike a service academy) the student can try the program for freshman year free of obligation and, if they decide to quit the military, they're still a student at that college. Our teen was interested in the Navy but USNA's "Summer Seminar" program showed her that she'd seen enough of the service academy lifestyle. Sorting through NROTC's website helped her research a few dozen schools and narrow it down to six.

The Houston members of this board helped Ohana Nords jerk her attention back to Rice. The Rice campus tour made all the difference in the world. It was especially impressive considering the fact that by this time she'd already toured U of Hawaii, USNA, Notre Dame, Carnegie-Mellon, and RPI. Within the first 30 minutes on the Rice campus, she felt "at home". She's just started sophomore year but she seems pretty intent on sticking around for the whole degree... and the ensign's bars.

Two more for you, not so much for your son:
How much should you save for college? | Military Retirement & Financial Independence
The internet guide to funding college and Section 529 college savings plans. Savingforcollege.com
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Old 08-28-2011, 02:30 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
Oy, I hope you can do some quick campus visits over fall, holiday, & spring breaks.

College Confidential (teen-friendly and snarky):
College Search - College Confidential

Students Review (huge database of student commentary):
College Reviews: StudentsReview : Over 106200 College Reviews! (3,359 schools reviewed)

Princeton Review's Education & Career Opportunities System (guidance counselors like this):
ECOS - Students

College Board (where parents learn about the process):
Find a College - College Search - Majors and Careers

College Board scholarship search (where parents hope to pay for the process):
Scholarship Search - Find Scholarships Online Free - Grants, Internships

ROTC (stick with me on this one, even if he's not interested in the services):
ROTC.com

No matter how comfortable your son is with the selection process, I think it's essential that a prospective student tour the campus, attend a class, and possibly even stay overnight or at a multi-day in-residence program. Nothing sucks worse (and costs more) than finding a college, applying, getting accepted, and next September realizing that (for whatever reason is important to a teen) you're in the wrong place. The teen has to stand on the campus, look around with their hands on their hips, and say "Yeah, I can do this." Until then it's just an online game. On your money.

Your first campus visit can be a waste of time if you're still learning how to do a campus visit. The first thing you might want to do (this weekend!) is visit the closest state campus. The idea is to practice doing the tour, listening to the talk, and learning what questions to ask. (Make sure to see a dorm room and eat in the dining hall.) The visits all follow a similar format. Neither one of you guys knows what's important to you right now, but plonking yourselves down in the environment for an hour or two of practice will make a huge difference.

College fairs were a good opportunity to get our teen to focus on the concept. We had many interesting discussions in the car to & from the fair, and she helped refine her criteria. Otherwise the actual college fair is a legacy of the pre-Internet search process and a waste of time. The local campus visit (and any other college campus visit) is much more productive.

The advantage of the ROTC website is that it lists the nation's major colleges interested in hosting ROTC units. (Not all colleges have an ROTC unit on the campus, but rather the students commute to a nearby campus. For example Houston has five NROTC units at five different colleges all drilling on the Rice U campus.) The programs at the ROTC colleges have been deemed worthy of government tuition scholarships-- especially the engineering & science programs-- and their faculty tend to attract a lot of govt grants from DOE and DARPA. (Even at UC Berkeley!) The extra funding helps the quality of the degree and the facilities, and it's a self-fulfilling cycle.

The best thing about ROTC is that (unlike a service academy) the student can try the program for freshman year free of obligation and, if they decide to quit the military, they're still a student at that college. Our teen was interested in the Navy but USNA's "Summer Seminar" program showed her that she'd seen enough of the service academy lifestyle. Sorting through NROTC's website helped her research a few dozen schools and narrow it down to six.

The Houston members of this board helped Ohana Nords jerk her attention back to Rice. The Rice campus tour made all the difference in the world. It was especially impressive considering the fact that by this time she'd already toured U of Hawaii, USNA, Notre Dame, Carnegie-Mellon, and RPI. Within the first 30 minutes on the Rice campus, she felt "at home". She's just started sophomore year but she seems pretty intent on sticking around for the whole degree... and the ensign's bars.

Two more for you, not so much for your son:
How much should you save for college? | Military Retirement & Financial Independence
The internet guide to funding college and Section 529 college savings plans. Savingforcollege.com
Great post.

Wish we had made visits with my oldest (couldn't, living overseas). So glad my daughter visited (it completely reversed her preference list and led to a great choice). With my third it didn't make a difference and I should have picked up on that - that would have made a difference.
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Old 08-28-2011, 03:32 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
College Confidential (teen-friendly and snarky):
College Search - College Confidential

Students Review (huge database of student commentary):
College Reviews: StudentsReview : Over 106200 College Reviews! (3,359 schools reviewed)

College Board (where parents learn about the process):
Find a College - College Search - Majors and Careers
I tried each of these sites, using my interests back (long ago) when I was applying to colleges (I thought I wanted to be a mathematician), to see if any of the places I actually applied to would be recommended. Results: zero. I wouldn't trust either of these search tools, and the College Reviews from "students" for my school, Harvard, seem to be almost entirely nonsensical.
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Old 08-28-2011, 06:16 PM   #6
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When my children were of college age .We went to the college fairs . We also got the booklets from any school they were considering and sometimes we would get the video of the school . After we narrowed the search down to three or four schools we visited the campuses . This was the hard part . They then applied to their top choices and we took it from there . Surprisingly my son's top school MIT offered a lot more financial aide than Rutgers our state school . I had also bought the book that rates the colleges . It was an interesting journey .
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Old 08-28-2011, 06:44 PM   #7
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The difference in the college aid is endowments. I venture that a higher % of MIT grads give to their school endowment fund than Rutgers.
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Old 08-28-2011, 09:25 PM   #8
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I tried each of these sites, using my interests back (long ago) when I was applying to colleges (I thought I wanted to be a mathematician), to see if any of the places I actually applied to would be recommended. Results: zero. I wouldn't trust either of these search tools, and the College Reviews from "students" for my school, Harvard, seem to be almost entirely nonsensical.
How helpful of you to criticize these recommendations without offering any of your own resources.

The point isn't whether any of these websites satisfy your assumed test criteria. I'm not suggesting a top-three list, although those sites are fairly big and well-known. The point is that the teen use them (or something similar) to read, to ask questions, and to think through the process of defining & refining their own criteria. Imagine if there was a discussion board like these websites, only instead of finding a college it'd be used to help people determine whether they were able to retire early.

Then they (the students, not the ER wannabes) need to visit the campus and develop a mental & emotional commitment to the place(s) that meet their criteria. Our teen got a lot out of being able to meet the students, staff, and professors.

The fact that those sites are still so big & popular after a few years indicates that they might be working for a number of teens.

But, hey, if you have a better suggestion then feel free to cough it up.
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Old 08-28-2011, 11:37 PM   #9
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But, hey, if you have a better suggestion then feel free to cough it up.
Sorry to be so negative. Myself, I spent lots of time reading college catalogs and looking up in my local library professors teaching courses I would be interested in, trying to get a sense of whether they were able people. But I don't suppose most young people would favor such a bookish approach.

The two search engines I tried out seemed concentrated on social stuff -- the "college experience". That never mattered to me, but if that's what prospective students are interested in, maybe those engines would give useful results.

Edit: I found an engine that gave reasonable results when I put it to my own peculiar test: http://www.petersons.com/college-search.aspx. I asked it to find me a college that had a mathematics program, offered a bachelor's, and was highly competitive. It put two of my own choices in its top ten (Cal Tech and Harvard) and put my third choice (U Chicago) in its top 60. Almost all of its top 60 were names that I was familiar with as having a good academic reputation. So for students mainly interested in academics, I'll recommend this search engine.
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Old 08-30-2011, 01:42 AM   #10
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There is an entire industry built up around selecting a college. You will find that some folks will have their kids apply to 20 schools. I'm not sure if anybody applies to less than 7 schools nowadays. I'm sure you will read up about all that. The NYTimes has a blog called "The Choice" which is very good, but a little Ivy League centric.

Here's a short list to consider:

1. State flagship university --- always apply. Sometimes your state does not have a flagship university, so you will have to apply to a neighboring state. Apply even if you are not going to go there ... just in case.

2. Size of school in terms of number of students. Some kids get lost. Some thrive.

3. Location. Location. Location. It could be get as far away from parents as possible or stay within the state. It could be big city or outside of city. I have found that a majority of students end up going to a school in their own state.

4. Majors. Really, what kid knows what they want to really study? I think I'm the only person who didn't change majors. Some kids want engineering, some want science, some want humanities, some just don't know.

5. Score matching. This can narrow the field quite a lot if the student has good scores and wants to use them. For example, if they have perfect SAT scores, then after the state flagship university there are probably less than 6 other schools to apply to. You have already heard of "reach school", good fit, and safety schools.

6. Friends. What are their friends doing? Sure some people will go where no one else in their school is going, but I think that is rare.
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