10 Free Search Tools to Find Your Dream School

college search engine

There are over 3,700 two- and four-year colleges in the United States. With so many to choose from, how can you find the best fit for you?

A college search engine is the best place to start. With these tools, you can filter your results by location, school size, tuition costs, selectivity, or other factors. Some even feature reviews from students.

To help you get started, we’ve collected the best college search engines from around the web. If you’re putting together your college list, check out these 10 online tools.

1. College Board’s BigFuture

College Board offers one of the best search tools around with BigFuture. Among other options, you can search by test scores, location, majors, support services, and diversity. If you create an account, you can save your favorite colleges and revisit them later. In addition to its college search engine, College Board offers tips on how to apply for financial aid or explore careers.

2. Cappex

Cappex is another top resource for learning about colleges. You can search through thousands of schools, plus you can estimate your chances of admission based on your GPA and admission test scores.

You can also use the “Cappex fit meter” to gauge whether a college could be a good match for you. The fit meter assigns a percentage to each school-based on your preferences, like school size and tuition cost. If you get 90 percent or higher, the school could be a great fit.

Finally, the site has over 1.4 million student reviews so that you can read about students’ firsthand experiences. Cappex is one of the best college search sites for personalizing your results and finding the right college for you.

3. College Insight

Some college search sites let you save a list of your favorites, but College Insight takes things a step further. With College Insight, you build your tables with any combination of variables to compare colleges. You can pick out the most relevant data and compare schools in the way that makes sense for you.

4. College Confidential

You might know College Confidential as a discussion forum, but the site also offers a comprehensive college search engine. The filters don’t get as specific as some other sites, but they’re enough to help you start building a college list. Once you narrow your results, you can learn about each school’s acceptance rate, tuition costs, and test scores, among other essential facts.

5. Niche

Niche is another great resource for learning about colleges across the country. After narrowing down your list, you’ll see that each college comes with a “report card” and overall grade. Niche gives grades for professors, athletics, dorms, and safety, among other concerns. Plus, it creates its rankings based on data from the U.S. Department of Education so that you can browse the best colleges by state or major.

6. Unigo

Unigo mixes up the traditional college search format. Instead of selecting filters, you’ll answer questions through a Buzzfeed-style quiz. Then, Unigo will match you with colleges based on your responses. You can learn about each school, as well as read unbiased student reviews. Besides its college search engine, Unigo also helps you find scholarships.

7. College Navigator

College Navigator is a free search tool offered by the National Center for Education Statistics. Although the design of the website isn’t exactly slick, it’s a thorough directory with up-to-date info.

You can filter schools by location, selectivity, sports teams, and other criteria. Plus, you can indicate tuition costs and your state of residency; the tool will take into account in-state versus out-of-state tuition. Use College Navigator for a no-frills look at facts and figures.

8. College Simply

College Simply doesn’t have a ton of search filters, but it does collect a huge number of student reviews. You can look for schools by test scores, state, ranking, or acceptance rate. Then, learn some basic facts about each college and read through reviews. Although College Simply isn’t as thorough as some other sites, it’s a useful place to start your college list.

9. College View

If you have specific preferences, head to College View’s college search engine. This directory has over 20 filters. You can search for colleges by gender mix, political inclination, Greek life, and party scene, along with the traditional filters like tuition cost and test scores. Once you’ve created a list, you can use College View’s map view to compare schools by location.

10. College XPress

Over 4.2 million students use College Xpress to learn about colleges and browse rankings. In addition to getting matched with schools, you can find over $7 billion in scholarship opportunities. Plus, College XPress gives away a $10,000 scholarship to one random winner every May. After you create an account, you’ll be able to sign back in later to revisit your college list or track your scholarship applications.

Reflect on what you want in a college

All these tools contain a wealth of information about colleges across the country. But to make the most of them, you first need to reflect on what you want out of a college. To get started, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I want to stay close to home or go across the country?
  • Would I prefer a rural, suburban, or urban setting?
  • Am I looking for a small, medium, or big school?
  • Do I care about a small professor-to-student ratio?
  • What am I looking for regarding majors, student organizations, or sports teams?

Once you’ve figured out what you want in a college, use a college search engine to find schools that match your preferences. As you finalize your list, use these 10 tips to compare colleges and select the one that’s best for you.

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