There’s a lot that goes into the college decision. The more resources available to aid teens and their parents in their research, the better. The United States Department of Education’s College Scorecard is an interactive tool that helps families gather critical information they need to evaluate colleges’ offerings, cost, quality, value and more.
Here are a few ways you and your teen can use this tool to sort through all kinds of information about different colleges and make a smart college decision:
Search for schools by location. The College Scorecard offers the ability to select one or more states and/or one or more regions (e.g. Southeast, Southwest, Rocky Mountains). Your teen can then add those schools to a list to compare and further research them (more on this below).
Search for schools by program of study. First, your teen must select a certificate, two-year degree or four-year degree. Then, she chooses from a long list of programs. The search-by-program feature is ideal for teens who have specific majors in mind. If your teen wants to further refine that list, she can easily select other filters such as location, region or school size.
Find schools based on desired size. Whether your teen wants to look for all small (<2,000 students) schools in your state, all medium (2,000-15,000 students) schools with architecture or psychology programs, or all large (>15,000 students) schools that are public and located in New England, the College Scorecard lets users narrow by size plus other attributes.
Narrow down colleges based on a specialized mission or religious affiliation. Does your teen want to go to a school for women or men only? One that is a historically black college or university? One for students of a certain religion? The advanced search feature allows users to easily search for those types of schools.
Compare colleges side by side. Maybe your teen knows the few schools in which he or she is interested in. Search for a college by name, add that college to a comparison list, then evaluate several colleges thoroughly. However your teen searches for schools using the Scorecard, the comparison feature is an excellent way to get a snapshot of several schools at once. Your teen can even send a summary via email.
The College Scorecard makes it easy to search for colleges and universities, and also evaluate some of their essential data points. Here are some of the facts the Scorecard helps you and your teen learn (and compare) about colleges:
Average annual net price (after aid from the school, state or federal government, including only in-state cost for public schools)
Graduation rate (of full-time students who started at that school)
Salary after attending (10 years after attending the school)
% of full-time enrollment
% of students paying down their debt within three years of leaving school
% of students receiving federal loans
Typical total debt after graduation (federal loans only and does not include private student loans or parent PLUS loans)
Students who return to the college after their first year
Outcomes eight years after attending
Typical SAT/ACT scores of admitted students
The College Scorecard can help you quickly compare colleges and universities on a variety of factors, but it is also important to understand that your teen’s situation is unique and figures like cost of attendance will depend on many different factors (like your financial position when applying for financial aid and any scholarships your teen earns, for example). Still, it is a great tool and one to use in addition to other methods of research, such as visiting colleges in person and going to their websites to collect information.