Finding the Right College For You – Tools & Resources from ED

If you are a high school senior who has yet to decide where you’re going to college this fall, you are most likely not alone. May 1st marks the National College Decision Day where the vast majority of U.S. colleges and universities require students to notify them of their decision to attend.

As you navigate the college decision process, the U.S. Department of Education provides tools for you and your family to make it easy to compare important information such as college costs, average student loan debt, and graduation rates across different institutions.

If you are a student or the parent of a college-bound teen struggling with this decision, here are a few tools that can help:

Federal Student Aid The College Scorecard

The College Scorecard includes essential information about a particular college’s cost, its graduation rates and the average amount its students borrow, all in an easy-to-read format. It is designed to help you compare colleges and choose one that is well-suited to your individual needs.

Net Price Calculator Center

Federal Student Aid

The Net Price Calculator Center provides an easy tool to explore the net price of any given college- that is, the price after subtracting the scholarships and grants you are likely to receive. Then, you can easily compare estimated net prices across the institutions that you are considering.

Financial Aid Shopping Sheet

Many colleges and universities have adapted a Shopping Sheet which will be included in your financial aid package. The Shopping Sheet provides personalized information on financial aid and net costs as well as general information on institutional outcomes- all in a standardized format. This tool provides an easy way to make clear comparisons among financial aid offers that you may receive.


College Navigator

College Navigator is an interactive website that allows you to explore and compare features of different institutions, including programs and majors, admissions considerations, campus crime statistics and more.

For additional tips visit Federal Student Aid’s Choosing a School resources and follow @USEDGOV & @FAFSA on Twitter.

Now that you have the resources and the tools to pick the right college, you can let out a sigh of relief and show your campus pride with that coveted university sweatshirt. Congratulations!

Kelsey Donohue is a senior at Marist College (N.Y.), and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach


  1. “The U.S. Department of Education is working to provide information about the average earnings of former undergraduate students at [any university] who borrowed Federal student loans.”

    This is absolutely critical and I hope that the information will be released eventually. With the rising cost of tuition, it is essential to know what parents and taxes are paying for.

    • Mel, Forbes has made a useful attempt at this — in its August 20, 2012 edition about “THE TOP COLLEGES”, it approaches the topic from the orientation of an investment decision. For most students this is sensible, and we have too many immature people making poor decisions at the present time, whose future defaults will likely come back to sting the rest of the taxpayers in a manner analogous to what sub-prime mortgages did to the rest of us. I believe DOE is trying to be helpful here with regard to this very real problem, but receiving advice on May 4 for decisions that were due on May 1 is not encouraging. I last night met with a student who worked very hard to get accepted by two universities on the east coast, but who will forgo attending either because of their sky-high tuition demands and lack of financial aid. European education ministers facing similar problems initiated the Bologna process, which has the potential to reduce tertiary education costs — I wish we had something similar.

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