A long time ago when I was a high school student trying to decide where I should go to college the process was a rudimentary one. I flipped through the U.S. News and World Report’s giant book of college rankings, looked for ones that I thought I could possibly get into (my GPA was not the best), and the ones that I could possibly afford. Then I went to the college fair at my high school and looked at the pictures of the campuses to finalize my application decisions. In the end, I didn’t end up at any of those colleges that had fancy pictures at the college fair. I’ve probably turned out okay…

Today, there are better ways for high school students to learn about colleges than through the rudimentary method that I used and that you might have used. One of those better ways is to use an online tool like CollegeLab

CollegeLab recently removed their paywall to make it free for high school students (ages 16 and above) to use to identify colleges that fit with the criteria they choose. Students can enter information about themselves to find colleges that could fit with their needs. Some of the information students can enter include GPA, SAT score, ACT score, academic interests, type of school, size of school, and location. CollegeLab then takes that information to find potential matches for students. 

Part of what CollegeLab includes in their matching tool is an acceptance probability calculator and an ROI calculator. The ROI calculator shows debt-to-earnings ratios associated with different majors at different schools, scholarship information, average repayment time data, and loan options. 

Tools like CollegeLab can be helpful in starting the process of identifying the colleges to which students may want to apply. That said, I don’t think they can replace getting one-on-one advice from a good high school guidance counselor and or other adults who have gone through the selection and application process.