Resources for College Admissions

These are some of my favorite resources for college admissions. They include amazing books, good articles, college guides, and links to sources of data on colleges and financial aid. If you know another great resource, I’d love to hear about it. Drop me an email and tell me what resources made your life easier:

Understanding College Admissions

The Price You Pay for College by Ron Lieber, financial columnist for the New York Times. This book explains how colleges price tuition, package financial aid, and use discounts (aka scholarships) to help fill their incoming class. Chapters are topical and snackable. I’m especially fond of Part 2, where he discusses the emotions around paying for college.

Who Gets In and Why by Jeff Selingo, who spent a year embedded in three college admissions offices, watching how they review applications and select a class. If you applied to college more than a decade ago, chances are you don’t understand the process used now. Read my review of the book here and Jeff Selingo’s article The Secrets of “Elite” College Admissions about the process of shaping a class in the final stage of admissions review.

A “Fit” over Rankings: Why College Engagement Matters More than Selectivity This report by Challenge Success, a non-profit affiliated with Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. In short, rankings measure what is easily measured, but engagement matters more in determining if a student is successful in and after college.

Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be excerpt by Frank Bruni. Spoiler, the college you attend doesn’t drive all of your adult success.

Finding the Right College

Colleges that Change Lives by Loren Pope and Hilary Masell Oswald
Fiske Guide to Colleges by Edward Fiske
College Scorecard – Compare data on colleges (lots of graphics)
College Navigator – Compare data on colleges
CollegeXpress – Lists of colleges in many categories

Financial Aid

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Expected Family Contribution /Student Aid Index Estimate Tool from College Board. Includes estimates for both the FAFSA and CSS/Profile results. The EFC/SAI is an indication of demonstrated financial need used by colleges to distribute need based financial aid.

Data on College Need Based and Merit Aid from Jeff Levy and Jennie Kent at Big J Consulting – These two IECs dig into the available data every year to give families an idea of how many students at individual colleges get aid, what kind of aid they get, and how much the average awards are. Remember to focus on Net Cost, not the size of the award (a big discount off of a bigger tuition might not be as good of a deal as a smaller discount off of a more affordable tuition).

GI Bill Comparison Tool – See how VA education benefits will cover costs at specific colleges. Includes info for Chapter 33 Post 9/11 GI Bill, Chapter 33 Fry Scholarship, and Chapter 35 DEA benefits.

Applications and More

Common Application
AXS Companion to Common App – A set of free walk through videos on all aspects of the Common App, presented by members of the Independent Educational Consultants Association with the support of Oregon State University.

Coalition Application

University of California Application
Resources for University of California applications

Apply Texas

Early Decision and Regular Decision Admissions Rates – Another excellent resource from Jeff Levy and Jennie Kent at Big J Consulting. This info can help students consider the effect of applying Early Decision on acceptance at individual colleges. Remember that Early Decision is binding and will usually prevent students from comparing financial aid offers from other colleges.

Service2School – Free mentoring for military veterans applying to college, including graduate programs