Make A Roadmap To Build Your College Search

Make A Roadmap To Build Your College Search

You have this high school thing down. You have decided college is right for you.

Good for you.

But where do you begin?

Ask your high school counselor.

College fairs.

There are rankings such as those from “U.S. News and World Report(hint, the numbers are rigged.)

There are massive books such as Princeton Review or Fiske Guide.

Or you can discuss with family, friends, and alumni.

And then there are websites. Lots! College Navigator, Unigo, and even Facebook since universities maintain an active Facebook presence. There is a dizzying array of options to review in trimming the shortlist from thousands to a few universities that feel good.

But try this:

Do a Google search for “common data set” and the name of any college.

Poof, you have landed in a treasure trove.

Universities offer an incredible amount of useful selection information via the CDS.

  • Detailed enrollment/”persistence” data.
  • Freshman admission/enrollment.
  • Academic offerings and required classes.
  • College life choices.
  • Costs and financial aid.
  • Student and faculty totals and ratios.

After you have mastered trolling through CDS’ info, data mining gets easier. Let’s say, for instance, your grades are excellent but standardized test are a little scary. But you learn, say, that Bowdoin College doesn’t require standardized tests scores (which about 16% of applicants opt to hold back).

Or let’s say the idea of becoming a small fish in a pond of tens of thousands of students is not your preference. Delve into, which is chock full of private college info. Private colleges are not the preserve of rich families. They are expanding outreach, academic support and financial aid programs that help students from all backgrounds realize the opportunity to enroll and succeed in a college of 1,200 like-minded students instead of 30,000.

You have started the process of choosing a college.


Do your homework, take good notes, and plan on visiting some colleges to see how they fit before your applications are submitted.

–Mike Ryan