8 ways to find great colleges

Getting into college might seem like the toughest part of the college admission process, but what's even more challenging - and important - is assembling a list of great schools that will be worthwhile pursuing.

How do you find colleges and universities? Here are eight ways to help you build that college list:

1. Use College Navigator

This is the massive federal database that belongs to the U.S. Department of Education. You'll find loads of ideas in this database, that also serves as a college search engine. Are you looking for universities in the Northeast where you can double major in dance and engineering? How about business schools in California and the rest of the West Coast? The College Navigator will make those searches a cinch.

2. Try other search engines

There are oodles of other college search engines that you can use when casting about for ideas. Here are four of them:

College Board
COLLEGEdata
Princeton Review
Student Advisor

3. Use College Results Online

On this website, you'll find a tool that will allow you to compare the graduation rates of a school with some of its peer institutions. You don't need to know what these peer institutions are - the software will generate that list for you. Use those peer lists to discover intriguing college possibilities.

4. Head over to Zinch and Cappex

These are online matchmakers that help students and colleges find each other.

5. Use US News & World Report's beauty contest results

I am recommending using US News' results as a tip service not as the gospel truth! The college rankings are terribly flawed, but they can help you generate ideas in the four categories of schools that it ranks:

- National universities
- National liberal arts colleges
- Regional universities
- Regional colleges

6. Visit the Center for College Affordability and Productivity

This think tank is the brains behind Forbes magazine's college rankings, which are superior to US News'. You can find Forbes' rankings sliced and diced in a variety of ways on the think tank's site. I particularly like the lists that are broken down by geographic region.

7. Check out Unigo.

This website aims to provide the uncensored truth about schools. The site encourages college students to share their opinions about their own schools. You'll find lots of comments about schools throughout the country.

8. Read a book.

How's that for old-fashioned advice? For your reading list, I'd recommend a couple of old, reliable sources. The Princeton Review's Best Colleges guide and the Fiske Guide to Colleges provide profiles of hundreds of schools.

University image courtesy of Flickr user taylorandayumi.

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