Looking at Colleges Side by Side - COLLEGEdata - Explore Colleges
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Looking at Colleges Side by Side

It's time to decide which colleges are your most serious candidates. So toss the rankings aside and get ready to play judge and jury.

Rankings from "experts" and suggestions from friends can be shortcuts to building your final college list. But be your own expert. If you take your time and assess each college on your own terms, you'll build a great college list.

1. What College Features Are Important—to You?

Before you start comparing schools, put down on paper what's important to you in a college. What Is Your Ideal College? gives you a handy list of typical college features to consider, such as location and size. How to Choose Your Top College Priorities helps you figure out which features are most important to you.

2. Rank Your College Requirements

Let's say you want a school with an affordable net price, in a big city, and with a top program in your major. Which of those three qualities is most important? What if you found an affordable school with your major that was more rural? Is an urban environment less important than the other two features? Or more?

Let's say you found several schools with all three features. How would you narrow down the list? What other qualities would influence your final choice? These features should also go on your requirements list as "tie breakers."

3. Research Your Colleges

Your next step is to evaluate the colleges you are considering. CollegeData's College Profiles contain a wealth of information. For example, you can see majors, financial aid offered, graduation rates, even the sports played at the college.

4. Rank Your Colleges

If your top choices are obvious, choosing which colleges to put on your application list might be as simple as talking your choices over with your parents. If you have a long list of colleges or a tough-to-call decision, try this simple approach.

  1. Assign points to each desired feature. The more important a feature is, the more points it gets.
  2. Award points for each feature for each college, up to the maximum points for that feature.
  3. Look carefully at the results. Below is an example. College C has the most points and may be the top-ranked choice, but College B may also be a good choice. Both are good candidates for an application list.
Pts   College A College B College C College D
10 Strong major program 8 10 10 8
8 Likely to be affordable 4 4 8 6
4 Suburban location 1 4 2 2
2 Within 500 mi. of home 2 2 2 0
1 Lots of school spirit 1 0 1 1
25 Total points 16 20 23 17

5. Give Yourself a Reality Check: Visit Your Colleges

A college may look good on paper, but seem wrong once you visit. Or a "maybe" college feels perfect when you step on campus. For example, someone who thinks school spirit is unimportant might love the student camaraderie once he experiences it firsthand. Visiting colleges helps you understand college qualities at a "gut" level.

What's Next?

For Students Age 18 and Older

Have you received a Personal Invitation to apply for a Student Credit card?

Learn how to qualify for a Personal Invitation to apply for a Student Credit Card


1st Financial Bank believes students who pick colleges wisely will also want to learn how to use credit cards wisely.

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COLLEGEdata Dollars are
points you earn by
completing certain
COLLEGEdata activities

Ways to earn
COLLEGEdata Dollars:

  • Complete your Admissions Profile.
  • Add colleges to your College Choices.
  • Update your Admissions Statuses.
  • Use the College Match tool.

What are COLLEGEdata Dollars (CD$)?

COLLEGEdata Dollars (CD$) are points you earn by completing certain COLLEGEdata activities. The maximum number of CD$ you can redeem is 5000. Once you have earned at least 2500 CD$, you can redeem them for $25, which will be provided to you on a Loyalty Card, and once you earn another 2500 CD$, you can redeem those CD$ for a second $25, which will also be provided to you on a Loyalty Card.

Earn points and redeem them for
U.S. Dollars

Complete certain COLLEGEdata activities (for example, signing up, starting your Admissions Profile, searching for colleges, calculating your chances for admission, searching for scholarships, updating your Profile with your admission decisions). Each activity is worth a specific amount of points (CD$). You can redeem the points you earn for U.S. Dollars that will be issued to you in the form of a 1st Financial Bank USA Loyalty Mastercard®.

How do I earn COLLEGEdata Dollars?

You can earn CD$ by completing certain COLLEGEdata activities. As soon as you sign up and activate your COLLEGEdata account, explore COLLEGEdata and begin completing COLLEGEdata activities to earn points.

Here is a full list of COLLEGEdata activities for which you may earn CD$ and the number of CD$ you can earn by completing each activity.*

Activity
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Check your CD$ Dashboard at the bottom of the page to view your CD$ balance, find other activities that you can complete to earn CD$, and redeem the CD$ you have earned for U.S. Dollars.