Undergraduate Information Sites - Public and Private

Goals

To identify the top channels and information sources for prospective students and parents when learning about, considering, and choosing an undergraduate college and to determine if there is a difference in sources or channels between those considering private schools and those considering public schools for the purposes of better understanding how this audience makes college decisions.

Early Findings

Based on website traffic, the top 10 channels and information sources for prospective students and parents when learning about, considering, and choosing an undergraduate college are below. Preliminary research shows there are very few, if any, differences in channels or information sources between those considering public or Private schools.

USNEWS COLLEGE RANKINGS

  • This website is here.
  • In the last month, this website has been visited 40.85 million times, although many visitors are likely there for features other than college rankings.
  • USNews annually ranks colleges and universities according to "50 different types of numerical rankings."
  • This is one of the most robust college search tools available to prospective students.
  • However, to unlock all features, there is a fee for this service, which is $39.95 per year. There is also a "Best Colleges 2020" e-book available for $0.99.
  • The free features are still useful and can work in conjunction with other free tools available.

CHEGG

  • This website is here.
  • In the last month, this website has been visited 21.38 million times, although many visitors are likely there for features other than the college matchmaking service.
  • Using Chegg's profile-building feature, users can create a profile where they are able to save schools in which they are interested.
  • The site provides a grade for each school in a variety of categories such as quality of life, merit aid, and more. These grades are based on student reviews and are available for "everything from campus dining to academics to the party scene, so [prospective students] can get an inside look at what people really think about the school."
  • For each college, there is a place where students can enter their SAT or ACT scores to calculated their chances for admission.
  • The downside to this site is that it offers less hard data about schools and relies more heavily on subjective student opinions, so it is recommended that this is not the only search tool used.

NICHE

  • This website is here.
  • In the last month, this website has been visited 8.89 million times, although many visitors are likely there for features other than the college search service.
  • Niche provides access to "tons of statistics as well as student reviews and letter grades for different aspects of student life." Note that the letter grades are imported from Chegg.
  • This site also ranks colleges in a variety of categories based on reviews.
  • Overall, this site provides a very comprehensive look at what each college offers, but the amount of information may get overwhelming for students just starting their search.
  • Students can create a profile with Niche and keep a running list of schools in which they are interested.
  • Moreover, the site will help students contact college representatives when they are ready to take that next step.
  • Unfortunately, Niche relies on ads for revenue and they can be rather distracting at times.

COLLEGE CONFIDENTIAL

  • The website is here.
  • In the last month, this website has been visited 4.40 million times.
  • Although this website is somewhat notorious for its "sometimes less than worthy discussion boards," its college search feature is top-notch.
  • Users are able to fill out their preferences in more than "20 categories including location, majors, Greek life, party scene, and special services."
  • Based on their answers to their preference questionnaire, users are matched with colleges that fit them best using a database of 4,500 schools.
  • Prospective students can pin their favorite schools to a list and are able to share their list with others.
  • This tool is recommended for students who are just beginning their college search because it helps them determine what is most important and provides them with a starting point.
  • They can also pin and compare schools easily, but if they want to view statistics for a school, they are linked to a third-party site called College View.

FASTWEB

  • The website is here.
  • In the last month, this website has been visited 1.90 million times.
  • Fastweb's primary function is to help prospective students find scholarships; however, it also helps users find colleges that interest them.
  • Students can find student loan information as well as scholarship applications, and there are blogs and articles to help them decide among their various options without feeling too overwhelmed.
  • Career planning and finding internship opportunities are other services Fastweb offers, so it's a nice site for students even after they've chosen their college.
  • This site has fewer statistics than other college search sites, so it may serve as one tool out of several for college decisions.

THE COLLEGE BOARD BIG FUTURE

  • This website is here.
  • In the last month, this website has been visited 1.61 million times.
  • The College Board Big Future is a great place for students who are just starting to look at colleges because it offers step-by-step guides for those who may not know where to begin.
  • Users are asked specific questions about what they are looking for in a college and provide them with a "snapshot" of their preferences before they decide where to apply.
  • Colleges can be compared side-by-side and users can search for them directly based on specific criteria.
  • Since there is less data on this site compared to other college search sites, it might be less overwhelming for those who are just starting the search.

COLLEGE NAVIGATOR

  • This website is here.
  • In the last month, this website has been visited 1.0 million times.
  • College Navigator is operated by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), so its data is reliable and just about any statistic on a school will be available here.
  • Searches can be conducted by state, area code, or school name and there are filters available for public versus private and four-year versus two-year.
  • Information is available on each school and includes "cost and financial aid, admissions, programs offered, graduation rates, athletics, and other general statistics."
  • Due to the amount of information available and the bland presentation, this website may be overwhelming and difficult to digest, especially for those who are just beginning their search.

CAPPEX

  • This website is here.
  • In the last month, this website has been visited 703,150 times.
  • Cappex is designed to allow prospective students compare schools, calculate admission odds, calculate financial aid, and determining good matches based on preferences and reviews.
  • In addition, this site has a built-in feature that allows users to plan campus visits and offers direct links to schools' application pages.
  • Students can also find scholarships and take personality tests to determine which majors and careers best fit their interests and abilities.
  • This site is very user-friendly and offers a great balance between hard data and qualitative information such as student reviews.

PETERSON'S

  • This website is here.
  • In the last month, this website has been visited 597,270 times.
  • Peterson's is ideal for helping prospective students manage the college application process as it provides application deadlines and tools for organizing the process.
  • In addition, a search feature allows students to identify schools that meet their criteria.
  • It is a less robust search engine and does not provide as many statistics as other sites, but it is a good tool to use in conjunction with other college decision-making services.

COLLEGEXPRESS

  • This website is here.
  • In the last month, this website has been visited 450,240 times.
  • CollegeXpress has been used by over 4.2 million students to help them learn about colleges and determine school rankings.
  • In addition to a college search feature, there is information on over $7 billion in scholarship opportunities.
  • Users can create an account where they can save colleges they are interested in and track their applications.

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