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College Search Sites: Web Surfers Beware

April 23, 2008 By: Category: Choosing a College, College search tools, Top Stories

Have any of you tried to search for colleges by visiting a college search site? If so, you already know what I’m talking about, skip to the recommendations below. But if you’re still a search engine virgin, look before you leap. Here is what is happening….

Suzie SmithImagine this scenario. Susie Smith, a high school senior, is valedictorian and president of her class. She has a perfect SAT score, is the captain of the swim team and enjoys working at the local soup kitchen in her spare time.

Like most of her peers, Susie googles “find a good college” and begins her search on the top three listed sites. She completes the online questionnaires and each site provides a recommended list for her school applications.

Harvard? Stanford? N.Y.U.? Not quite. Instead, the three sites agree that the University of Phoenix, DeVry University and AIU online are the best choices for Susie.

Not only has Susie just wasted an hour of her time, but her name has been sold to dozens of schools like the ones listed as matches. She will now be bombarded with spam, phone calls and mailings from schools she has no interest in and these schools will waste a substantial amount of money recruiting the wrong student. This approach does not work for Suzie, nor does it work for the matching schools.

This year, 14.5 million students will use the internet to search for the right college, and colleges will spend $1.8 billion dollars to search for these students. More than sixty companies will profitably offer online college matchmaking services, and nearly all of them will result in frustrated students and wasted educational resources.

How do you make sure this doesn’t happen to you?

  1. Avoid sites that ask for your contact information upfront
  2. Read the disclaimer to see who they will be selling your contact info to
  3. Ask your college counselor what they would recommend
  4. Visit a few sites to see if you get the same answers
  5. Start with myUsearch.com, the only truly objective site on the web (shameless plug, I know)
  6. Try sites that offer reputable services other than search engines such as publishing, test prep, etc. Petersons.com, Collegeboard.org or Princeton Review’s Counselor-O-Matic are not as objective as myUsearch.com, but they are pretty good.
  7. Read this post about how to choose a college search site