5 Free College Admission Resources Every High Schooler Needs
By Matt Musico
One college counselor breaks down five of CollegeData’s free tools and resources intended to help students prepare, apply, and pay for college.
The college admissions world is full of sophisticated tools and resources intended to give students a better idea of how to build a college list, assess their chances of getting in, how to get as much scholarship money as possible, and much more. Oftentimes, these tools and resources – especially those that college counseling companies have created and/or use – are only available for students and families who are willing to pay for them.
And, let’s be honest – getting a good private college counselor or engaging a college counseling service isn’t exactly cheap.
That’s why I want to recommend five of CollegeData’s incredibly useful and comprehensive resources that anyone with an Internet connection and a computer or mobile device can use – for free.
1. Scholarship Finder
College can be an amazing experience, and for many, it’s the best four years ever. With the price of college tuition increasing much faster than that of job wages, though, finding ways to make college more affordable is an absolute must for many students.
There are tons of private and public scholarships waiting for applicants to consider, but it can be hard to sift through all the Internet noise and find exactly what you’re looking for. This is where CollegeData’s Scholarship Finder comes in. It can make finding scholarships easier and more convenient than having to search multiple sites.
Using the Scholarship Finder isn’t just a one-size-fits-all kind of formula. You can use it to search to see what scholarships are available and can even apply a few filters (such as, GPA, gender, residency, ethnicity, religion, area (s) of study, and school location) to see what’s available from a more specific standpoint.
And, just in case you’re wondering if using Scholarship Finder is worth it, let’s put it in perspective: you can use the tool to search for over 800,000 awards totaling over $5 billion offered by private organizations, foundations, corporations, and individuals. So, yes, using this free tool to help cut down on college tuition costs would likely be a good use of your time.
2. College Chances
As a college counselor, a common question I get from students and families who are either researching colleges or have already developed their college list is: “So, what are my chances of getting in?”
Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball when answering that question, but I do fall back on historical data and helpful resources to make an educated guess. One resource I use is CollegeData’s College Chances. Similar to Scholarship Finder, College Chances allows you to input various information about your academic profile, plus other admissions factors before getting an answer on your admissions chances at any of the 2,000+ colleges reflected on the CollegeData site.
It’s important to note that College Chances uses its own unique algorithm to show students their chances of getting into a particular college. The odds produced by the tool are never 100% and do not guarantee you will or will not get into a particular school. However, it is a good starting point to get a sense of how selective specific schools are, but you should also try and discuss the results with your parents, guidance counselors, teachers and anyone else guiding you on your college search.
3. The Facts on Fit
Many students want to find a college that will help them on their career path. I run into a number of students who are also hyper-focused on gaining admission to the “best” college possible, which obviously depends on how they define “best” in their own eyes. After all, what one student considers “best” may not apply to another student with different strengths and goals.
Being a former admissions officer, I found that finding the best college fit for students revolved around three main aspects of the college experience: academics, extracurricular activities, and social life.
For many students, finding the right academic fit is the first and most important hurdle. Extracurricular fit is also important because students aren’t just going to class at college -- the campus is also their home. So, it’s important to see what opportunities are available to make students feel connected to campus. Last, but most certainly not least, is social fit. Getting to know students through the admissions process always allowed me to get a sense as to whether they would fit in with the general campus environment and “vibe.”
What are some things you should be considering when it comes to college fit? Well, fortunately, CollegeData has an entire section dedicated to this aspect of the process. From getting a breakdown of what makes colleges different, to understanding how to find the best academic fit, to thinking about life outside of class, there’s plenty of information to help you feel confident about what “fit” actually means and how it applies to you and your situation.
4. Student Stories
The college admissions experience can at the same time feel both personal and impersonal.
In one respect, the process is personal because, well, it’s your future we’re talking about. But then from the impersonal side, there are so many strategies, statistics, and “unknowns” to worry about that it’s easy to get lost in the weeds in what can quickly become an overwhelming process.
Something you can do to bring you back down to earth and help you feel more connected to the process is reading about stories from other students who were in your position not too long ago. These are real students’ stories about the ups and downs of their college admissions journey and include a summary of their academic profile, a list of the schools to which they applied, the decision outcomes at each school, and at the end, some advice after going through the admissions process and coming out on the other side in one piece (and in college!).
5. Admissions Tracker
As your college list continues to grow, it’s essential to have an idea of how balanced that list actually is. This is where bouncing ideas off your parents, guidance counselors, teachers or anyone else helping you navigate the college process comes in handy. In addition, CollegeData’s free Admissions Tracker is a great way to get an idea of where to set your initial expectations with regard to how likely (or unlikely) an acceptance could be at any particular college.
The Admissions Tracker allows you to not only view qualifications of thousands of real students, but also get a glimpse of their admissions decisions. The tool also provides the opportunity to compare your own qualifications with thousands of students who were admitted or denied at the colleges you’re interested in, see the types of students applying this year, and view trends over multiple years of data. While college admissions isn’t all numbers and statistics, this is a helpful tool to use when you’re trying to build a college list.
There are so many variables to consider when it comes to college admissions, and those variables have only increased with COVID-19 dramatically changing the landscape of it all. To sift through any of the myths, misconceptions, and anything else that may confuse or worry you about the college admissions process, it’s crucial to have clear and accurate information to support or disprove what’s running through your mind. CollegeData’s free tools and resources can provide all that and more as to help you prepare, apply and pay for college, and they’re free. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Matt Musico, a current college counselor at Collegewise is a freelance writer for CollegeData. He has worked in higher education for the better part of a decade. Half of that time was spent working in an undergraduate admissions office, while the other half has involved working with high school families as a private college counselor.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to CollegeData, 1st Financial Bank USA or any other person or entity. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this article are hereby expressly disclaimed.