Finding the Right College For You – Tools & Resources from ED

If you are a high school senior who has yet to decide where you’re going to college this fall, you are most likely not alone. May 1st marks the National College Decision Day where the vast majority of U.S. colleges and universities require students to notify them of their decision to attend.

As you navigate the college decision process, the U.S. Department of Education provides tools for you and your family to make it easy to compare important information such as college costs, average student loan debt, and graduation rates across different institutions.

If you are a student or the parent of a college-bound teen struggling with this decision, here are a few tools that can help:

Federal Student Aid The College Scorecard

The College Scorecard includes essential information about a particular college’s cost, its graduation rates and the average amount its students borrow, all in an easy-to-read format. It is designed to help you compare colleges and choose one that is well-suited to your individual needs.

Net Price Calculator Center

Federal Student Aid

The Net Price Calculator Center provides an easy tool to explore the net price of any given college- that is, the price after subtracting the scholarships and grants you are likely to receive. Then, you can easily compare estimated net prices across the institutions that you are considering.

Financial Aid Shopping Sheet

Many colleges and universities have adapted a Shopping Sheet which will be included in your financial aid package. The Shopping Sheet provides personalized information on financial aid and net costs as well as general information on institutional outcomes- all in a standardized format. This tool provides an easy way to make clear comparisons among financial aid offers that you may receive.

FSA2

College Navigator

College Navigator is an interactive website that allows you to explore and compare features of different institutions, including programs and majors, admissions considerations, campus crime statistics and more.

For additional tips visit Federal Student Aid’s Choosing a School resources and follow @USEDGOV & @FAFSA on Twitter.

Now that you have the resources and the tools to pick the right college, you can let out a sigh of relief and show your campus pride with that coveted university sweatshirt. Congratulations!

Kelsey Donohue is a senior at Marist College (N.Y.), and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

Top 5 Benefits of the College Navigator

College Navigator LogoWhether you’re a high school student wanting to look into your college options or a parent trying to get ahead of the game, the college research and application process can be confusing. With 4,000 degree-granting institutions in the United States, how are you supposed to find out which one is the right fit for you?

Luckily, ED has a great resource that makes the process of finding a college easier. The College Navigator helps you find, organize, and keep track of the schools that are best suited for you. Here’s a list of the top 5 ways to use this tool:

1.     Cost Calculator

The Navigator estimates student expenses for each college, including tuition, books, supplies, and room and board. Also provided is the net price of attendance and links to each school’s calculator.

2.     Financial Aid

College Navigator reports every college’s financial aid awards, breaking them into categories such as number of students at the school who receive aid and average amount of aid received.

3.     Graduation Rates 

Data are presented on color-coded graphs that make the numbers easy to understand whether students are staying in school and completing.

4.     Student Loan Default Rates

You can see whether former a college’s students are repaying their student loans. If too many are defaulting, it’s a sign the school isn’t preparing them for success after graduation.

5.     Compare Your Favorites

Add colleges and universities that you like to a My Favorites tab. You can compare two or more schools and export results to a spreadsheet.

The college application process is an important one, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. With College Navigator, you can narrow your search and stay connected to your prospective schools’ admissions offices. Before you know it you’ll be on your way to college that’s right for you.

Alexandra Strott is a student at Middlebury College and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

Education Department Announces Winners of Net Price Calculator Video Contest

Each year, millions of students face the challenge of choosing a college – and how to afford it is increasingly daunting for families. For many, the high price tag of a college education may discourage them from pursuing a degree, and that’s why the Department has undertaken an effort to help families access better consumer data that can help students determine how to best invest in a high-quality education at an affordable price.

Part of that effort has focused on institutions’ “net price” and spreading awareness of net price calculators, a key tool that can assist parents and students in researching the cost of higher education. Net price calculators go beyond an institution’s “sticker price,” factoring in grants and scholarship aid to give families a better sense of how much they would actually pay to attend a specific school.

Earlier this year, the Department held a contest encouraging college and high school students to come up with creative videos that explain net price calculators and why they are a valuable resource. Today, ED is announcing that three students have each won a $1,500 prize for creating the top-scoring videos in the Department’s College Net Price Calculator Student Video Challenge. The winners are:

    • Michael Kirby from the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va. (watch the video)
    • David DeMesquita from Cal State Fullerton in Fullerton, Calif. (watch the video)
    • Brian Schwabauer from Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo.  (watch the video)

The Department plans to use these videos to broaden awareness of net price calculators among students and will continue outreach efforts to several stakeholder groups, organizations, college counselors and student body leaders. In addition, every title IV institution is now required to have a net price calculator on their website, and the Department has proactively linked to each school’s net price calculator from its College Navigator site, which contains a wealth of consumer information. 

The challenge is part of a broader Administration effort to address the rising cost of college and the struggles families face paying for higher education. The Department hopes that by providing key consumer data like net price, families will have a better sense of what they can afford and will be empowered to make smart decisions about where to invest and enroll for college.

Sara Gast is press aide in the Office of Communications and Outreach