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Tools for college-bound students and their parents.

Here is a curated list of up-to-date, trustworthy, and useful resources for families starting on the college search and application process.

Antonoff College Match
An authoritative and thoughtful guide to the process, with a focus on finding colleges that are academic, social, and financial fits. Includes helpful student and parent worksheets for each step of the self-assessment, search, and decision process.

Barnard and Clark The Truth about College Admission
A reassuring, honest, and practical family guide from a pair of rock-star school and college admissions insiders.

CollegeBoard’s BigFuture
Provides extensive information and resources for prospective college students and their parents about starting the college search, learning about college academics and campus life, paying for college and much more.  A great starting place.

COLLEGE Navigator
A comprehensive college search and comparison tool from the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

Data USA
Aggregates US government data on education, industries, metro areas, and employment, with very cool visualization tools for families to explore colleges, majors, and careers together.

A comprehensive college search and comparison tool with a particular focus on finding scholarships and useful heuristics for searching by intended major, location, standardized testing ranges.

College Scorecard
US Department of Education’s search and comparison tool intended to share information about college outcomes in terms of cost, graduation rate, employment rate, average amount borrowed, and loan default rate.

Fiske Guide to Colleges
The #1 go-to annual college guide.  Includes intelligent narratives and summary statistics for each college. Organized alphabetically, with additional special sections and lists by feature.

Greene Hidden Ivies
Provides narrative reviews for 63 outstanding liberal arts colleges and universities with exceptional liberal-arts undergraduate programs.

Pope Colleges That Change Lives
Provides narrative reviews for “40 colleges that will change the way you think about colleges”– lesser-known higher education jewels described by an eminence in the field.

US NEWS Best Colleges
An omnibus website that launched the college-rankings wars.  While its ranking methodology is hotly contested, the site does provide plenty of family-friendly topical information and insights.

Colleges now offer a terrific range of online and in-person information sessions, campus tours, and other ways to engage with admissions and to explore campus life. Check out each college’s website for specifics. Here are some additional resources

The College Tour

Student-built tours and videos that go beyond walks through college quads to give a real sense of the student experience.

Panorama-style campus tours narrated by students, for many (but not all) college campuses.

A number of college admissions offices or their deans publish insightful, funny, helpful blogs about the college admissions process – the good, the bad, and the ugly, the earnest and the goofy. Some colleges publish blogs written by current students and geared to prospective applicants. Here are a few of my favorites.

Georgia Tech Admissions Blog

MIT Student Blogs

Tufts Admissions and Student Blogs

UVA Admissions Blog
The US Department of Education site is an essential stop for families to learn about paying for college, financial aid, student loans, and related issues. The “Free Application for Federal Student Aid” form FAFSA is used by all colleges to award federal financial aid and by some colleges to award state or institutional student aid.  Families can consult Federal Student Aid Estimator to get an early estimate of their eligibility.

Calculate Your Cost
Big Future’s Paying for College site offers very helpful information and estimators on college costs and paying for college.  Families who are seeking institutional aid from colleges will probably need to complete the CSS profile found on the site, which is used by many colleges to calculate their institutional aid awards.

Test providers




duolingo English Test

Pearson PTE

Test prep and tutoring

For students who intend to take standardized tests including SAT, ACT, or AP exams, and equally, English language proficiency tests, there are a variety of approaches for reviewing content, developing study and testing strategies, dealing with test anxiety, taking practice tests, and so on.  Options with various price points, timelines, delivery modes, and levels of intensity and personalization, include books and mobile apps; online, remote, or in-person group classes; and remote or in-person individual tutoring. Notably, Khan Academy has a partnership with the College Board; Kaplan has a partnership with ACT. Here are a few representative sources.


Bespoke Education


Khan Academy

Princeton Review

Summit Educational Group

More than 900 colleges and universities use the CommonApp portal. Students create their accounts over the summer before Grade 12.  Individual college materials go live each year on August 1.

Coalition for College Access
About 150 colleges are members of this Coalition created to promote college accessibility and affordability.  At those colleges, students can generally choose to use either the CommonApp or Coalition application.

University of California System Admissions
California’s public colleges (the UC, C State, and community college systems) use their own application portals and have their own deadlines and processes, for both in-state and out-of-state applicants.

Gelb Conquering the College Essay in 10 Steps
An excellent and very tactical approach, written from both writer’s and reader’s perspectives.

Toor Write Your Way In
An excellent and very writerly approach, full of playful and useful imagery about the writing process.

Sawyer College Essay Essentials and College Essay Guy
An excellent, inspiring, fun, exercise-based approach, focuses on helping students get unstuck and unpack the process.

Bruni Where You Go Is Not Who You Are
How to reframe college admissions mania and get some perspective.

Coburn and Teeger Letting Go
How to parent the adulting college student!

Furda and Steinberg The College Conversation
How parents can play helpful roles during the student’s college admissions journey.

Heffernan and Harrington Grown & Flown and website Grown & Flown
How to parent the adulting college student, with a Facebook feel.

Lieber The Price You Pay for College
A New York Times financial columnist explains the system and provides the clarity that parents need to make informed choices.

Selingo Who Gets In and Why
Based on the author’s year embedded in three college admissions offices, interprets the holistic admissions process in terms of colleges that are either “buyers” or “sellers” to applicants.

College Supports for Learning Differences
An excellent insider’s guide to the college/program search for educators, counselors, and students with LD; paid plans for purchasing profiles of over 500 colleges and postsecondary programs.

Excellent resources and support throughout the testing and admissions process for students with learning differences.  Some free materials as well as paid plans.

K&W Guide to Colleges
A starting place to identify colleges with programs and services (including structured, coordinated, and compliant) for students with learning differences.

Maitland and Quinn Ready for Take-Off: Preparing your Teen with ADHD or LD for College
A practical guide to evaluating your student’s college readiness and coaching their self-determination and academic and daily living skills.

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