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Discover 3 Resources for High School Seniors to Help Search for Colleges

future planning guidebook high school Aug 09, 2023
How to search for college

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the countless options when it comes to selecting a college?

You're not alone. Online search engines have become invaluable guides in navigating the maze of college choices. They allow you to compare academic programs, evaluate campus cultures, and steer you toward the perfect fit.

However, for many, the abundance of options can be paralyzing. Sometimes, you spend more time figuring out how to search for colleges than actually searching for them.

Instead of letting the wide range of choices leave you feeling indecisive, narrow your search to those offering comprehensive information and data. Utilizing these resources will help you decide which college best aligns with your needs and goals.


Here are three of the best websites to use for college searching: 


BigFuture by The College Board

One valuable resource is College Board's BigFuture. This trusted platform provides reliable information about colleges and universities across the United States and abroad. With comprehensive overviews and direct links to colleges, BigFuture makes it easy to find and apply to your dream school. The robust search engine allows customized searches based on location, majors, and financial aid availability.


BigFuture provides detailed admissions data about incoming student GPAs, ACT & SAT Scores, as well as Acceptance Rates and other key admissions stats.


Start your college search with BigFuture to find possible matches.

Click here for a quick introduction on how to search colleges like a pro.


BigFuture's purpose is to help you determine if your skills match those of other incoming students and provides some detail if the college has the features that Fit your emotional needs (location, major, size of school). Use this website to narrow your search and allow the data to influence your decision, but DO NOT make a decision on data alone.

Picture this: you're stepping into the shoes of a student who has already walked the halls of your dream college. That's the power of This unique platform offers real insights from former students, adding a personal touch to your college search.

While offers other information, the data isn't always accurate or complete, so BigFuture holds the advantage here. However, the Report Card feature is incredibly powerful as you start to limit your college search. Past students offer insights about:

  • Academics
  • Athletics
  • Campus
  • Diversity
  • Food
  • Professors
  • Safety

And, of course, the party scene!

Combining both these sites in your college search gives you an incredibly powerful way to help you make the best decision for your future. is best at adding context to the data BigFuture provides. Combining both these sites in your college search gives you a potent tool to help you make the best decision for your future.
However, both sites are interested mainly in getting into the college, not what your outcome will be. To see your future post-graduation, look at your future earnings and Return on Investment.

Engenius Learning

Engenius Learning focuses on your future after graduation, namely, what will be your outcome from a degree from a specific university. They use the Department of Education Data for graduation rates, completion time, average yearly earnings, and lifetime return on investment.

Their College Expense or Investment Calculator offers tools that analyze the cost of a degree compared to the earning potential in the field, helping you make an informed decision about your future.


There are over 30,000 majors at major colleges in the United States, and this data is taken from the Department of Education statistics. You can sort the columns and search by major or university, but beware: you may not find the investment in your future you have hoped for at colleges you dream about attending.


What You Need to Know

When using these websites, be sure to balance the information. Each website offers a unique perspective, and it's essential to consider all these viewpoints to get a comprehensive picture of your options. Always check the information against each other, and be open to exploring different sources. 

Each of these three websites - BigFuture,, and - offers unique strengths in your college search. As you embark on this journey, remember that these resources are tools to assist you. 


How to Use These 3 Sites to Search Like a Pro

How To Use BigFuture

Let’s assume searching for colleges is a lot like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle. As most will tell you, the easiest and fastest way to complete a jigsaw puzzle is to start by identifying the border pieces.

This is what BigFuture does for you. It helps you separate out all the pieces that do not match what you are looking for.

  • Step 1 - Search by location. Many want to stay close to home, while others want to go someplace far away. Location will help reduce the number of "puzzle pieces" to a more manageable size.
  • Step 2 - Search by majors. Don't get too caught up on the exact major (nearly 80% of students who go to college change their major). But do look for interest areas. The ACT puts out a chart that is incredibly helpful in this regard. 



  • Step 3 - Search by type of college. If you are reading this, you should focus solely on 4-year colleges and universities (these types of schools require advanced planning, while 2-year colleges mostly do not. *Regardless of income, definitely search private and public schools. Private schools often will reduce tuition through grants and scholarships and often have better 4-year graduation rates than public schools, effectively being more affordable in the end.
  • Step 4 - Campus Life. I recommend sorting by Size and Setting. When searching by size, focus only on Small or Large. If you want a small school experience, check everything smaller than 14,999 students. If you want a large school experience, check 9,000 and above.

After deciding on the size of your preferred college, determine if you want to live in a big city or a small rural college town. While I know there are 3 options, the classification for these settings is somewhat subjective. So if you want to live in a big city, check Urban & Suburban. If you want to live in a small college town, check Rural and Suburban.

After fine-tuning your search, you can see what schools you have eliminated. For reference, you started with over 3,000 schools. Your goal is to get to approximately 100 schools for the next step in your search. If you are not close to 100 colleges, you will need to go back and adjust your filters (e.g., size of the school, location, majors, etc.)

Once you are around the 100 college mark, start searching the colleges one by one by clicking on the link BigFuture provides. After browsing, you can determine whether to save the college on your personalized College Board account.


How to Use

After narrowing your list, take the remaining schools and check them out using's Report Card.

Exploring is like having an inside look into a college's community. Once you visit the website, you can search for specific colleges and access their report cards. These report cards provide detailed information and ratings from real students who have attended that college.

You can gain valuable insights into the quality of education, the support systems in place, and the overall atmosphere on campus.'s report cards are a valuable tool to help you find a college that matches your academic goals and resonates with you emotionally.


After filtering out colleges that do not Match your abilities or Fit your needs, it is time to investigate the financial aspects of college.

College can be a significant investment, so it's important to consider the return on investment (ROI) when making your decision. Using's ROI Calculator will help you decide if college will be an investment or an expense.

How to Use Engenius Learning ROI Calculator

Using ROI Calculator is a simple and effective way to determine the financial implications of your college choice. Remember, this site is focused primarily on future outcomes.

You can search by either the college or major you are interested in.

Searching by College


Searching by Major



After searching by college or major, you can sort by the headings.



We use the 5 | 10 | 20 Student Outcome Formula to make this more useful. 

  • 5 Years - Look for colleges where the 5-year graduation rate is 70% or better. Anything less than the national average of 63.8% should be concerning.

  • 10 Years - 10 years is the goal for your return on investment to turn positive. Look for colleges & a degree with a positive ROI of 33. The national average is 44 for a positive ROI.

  • 20 Years - 20 years is the future outlook of possible jobs to determine if the college & major selected will become an investment or an expense.

What Is the Perfect College

I hate to be the one to tell you, but there really is no such thing as the perfect college. 

But some colleges are better than others to match what you need. 

The best use of these websites and all the data available to provide you with more context to help you select the college that Matches your abilities and Fits your needs.

You would never want to attend a college simply because it had the best ROI, just like you would never want to attend a college just because it offered your major.

You need to factor in all of the variables and then determine which aspects of the college are the most important to you.


Embarking on a college search is a significant step toward your future. While tools like BigFuture,, and offer essential insights, your journey is uniquely yours.

What were your experiences with these platforms? Are there any other tools you've found beneficial?

Share your experiences below, and let's make the journey easier for everyone. Together, let's find that perfect college fit.


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