Tools for College Price Transparency
- College Scorecard: This U.S. Department of Education tool allows you to compare colleges and fields of study across key statistics including median student loan debt and post-graduation median salary.
- TuitionFit: Compare actual college prices from real financial aid offers
For Pell-Eligible Families:
- SwiftStudent: Get free help writing a financial aid appeal letter
Tools to Save Money on Tuition
Test out of college courses:
- AP Courses: These are college-level courses offered in high school. Based on qualifying exam scores, you can earn college credit or advanced placement. Use the AP Credit Policy Search tool to search institution credit policies.
- CLEP: The College Board’s College-Level Examination Program allows students to earn college credit for information they already know. CLEP offers 34 exams that cover material generally covered in courses in the first two years of college for a reduced price. Use the CLEP College Credit Policy Search tool to search institution policies.
Freshman Year for Free:
- Offered by the nonprofit Modern States Education Alliance, the Freshman Year for Free program allows students to earn free college credits. Here’s how it works:
- Students take free online classes created by Modern States. The courses are taught by professors from top colleges and universities and prepare students to test out of introductory courses via CLEP exams.
- After completing each course, students take the corresponding CLEP exam for free via a voucher provided by Modern States.
- Students send their CLEP scores to their college or university to receive credit. More than 2,900 institutions accept CLEP credits.
Tools to Help Pay for College
There are many, many options when it comes to finding resources to help you figure out the best way to pay for college. There are blogs, websites, coaches, and more. Unfortunately, a lot of the advice out there can miss the mark and leave you paying more for college than you need to.
- College Search and Query Tool: This exclusive tool, created for MCPT by Collegiate Funding Solutions can be a very-helpful first step in finding the right college for your child, saving you potentially thousands of dollars on your out-of-pocket college costs, keeping your retirement savings on track and avoiding crippling amounts of student loan debt. Access it here.
- StudentAid.gov: StudentAid.gov is the main site for students created by the Department of Education. This should be the first stop in the process for families that will be borrowing money to pay for school. This site provides information about loan types, what you may qualify for, and different repayment plans available after graduation. They also provide tools to help understand the repayment process.
- FinAid.org: FinAid.org is the premiere source for navigating the complex world of financial aid. FinAid.org covers everything from student loan debt to scholarships and grants. They also provide detailed information on how to lower your EFC and increase your financial aid. Financial Aid Directors also use it as a resource to make their final decisions on how rule on an appeal for additional financial aid.
- Fastweb: Fastweb focuses on scholarships, internships, and career advice. It’s considered to be one of the best sites on the web for finding college scholarships. They also have a great internship search tool. Internships are another great way to boost your skills (and income) while in school. They also recently launched a service to help students search for private student loan options.
- Edvisors: Edvisors focus on financial planning. They cover financial aid advice, student loans, scholarships, and more. They also maintain accurate resources on borrowing money for college and repaying your student loans.
- Consumer Finance Protection Bureau: The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) has put together an excellent resource on paying for college. They have created guides that help you understand your financial aid offer, compare financing offers, and understanding student debt. They also have tools to help students with things like banking.
- Tuition Fit: Get real time award letters offered to other students at your selected colleges.
Tools for the College Search & Understanding Fit
- Target, Reach, and Safety Schools: Plan to apply to 8-10 colleges. This list should be made up of 3-4 match schools, 2-3 reach schools and 2-3 probable/likely admit schools.
- Corsava: Students can use this card sort tool to help them reflect on what is important to them as they research colleges.
- College Board Big Future: Students can use this tool to determine which colleges have the criteria they consider most important.
- NCES College Navigator: Students can use this tool to search for colleges using multiple criteria.
Tools for College Exploration and Research
- Strive Virtual College Exploration: Watch recorded virtual college presentations.
- Illinois College Fairs Calendar: Attend virtual college fairs to learn more about institutions you are interested in.
- Test-Optional Schools on Fairtest.org: Includes a list of test-optional schools. Some colleges do not require ACT or SAT scores for admissions. They will focus on other aspects of your application (transcript, essay, activities, letters of recommendation, interview, etc.)
- Jeff Selingo’s Buyers and Sellers List: This list provides useful guidance in evaluating which colleges are looking to attract more students with merit aid, and which colleges may have a large enough pool of applicants to only offer it to truly exceptional students or students with significant need.
For late college applicants:
- NACAC College Openings Update – Options for Qualified Students: This is a voluntary listing of NACAC member institutions that are still accepting applications from prospective freshmen and/or transfer students for the upcoming fall term.
Virtual Campus Tours and Visits
- CampusTours: Video tours, photorealistic interactive campus maps, mobile walking tours and custom data-driven multimedia applications for education, non-profit and government clients worldwide.
- YouVisit: Use 360 Immersive Technology to visit college campuses across the United States, no matter where you are.
- CampusReel: View student-driven virtual college tours from the comfort of your own home.
- YOUniversity: Watch video tours from colleges all over the country.
- College Fairs Online: Attend virtual college fairs to learn more about multiple colleges from one event.
- College Board (home of PSAT, SAT, Subject tests, and AP): Once you create an account, you can register for any national SAT or Subject Test date, access PSAT, SAT, Subject Test, and AP scores, and take advantage of free test prep through the Khan Academy.
- ACT: Use this site to register for any national ACT testing date and to access resources for test prep, college planning, career exploration and financial aid resources.
College Application Resources
- Common App: The Common App is a simplified college application process where students are able to complete one form and one essay as part of their application for multiple colleges, rather than completing multiple forms/essays. Individual schools may require additional materials and information.
- Coalition App: The Coalition App is also a simplified college application process, similar to the Common App. It also includes a digital locker where students can upload samples of their best work that are related to their eventual application submission.
- Common Black College App: The Common Black College Application is an easy application for students who are interested in Historically Black Colleges and Universities with over 45 options of schools to apply to in one application.
- University of California (UC) System Application
- The Cal State University System Application
Resources for Transfer Students
- Transferology: If you are considering attending junior or community college before transferring to a 4-year institution, check this website to make sure all of your courses are transferable. You don’t want to waste time and money taking classes that won’t be given credit.
Resources for Specific Populations and Needs
Asian American Pacific Islander Students
Black/African American Students
- Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are accredited colleges and universities that were established prior to 1964 and whose principal mission is the education of African American/black students.
- United Negro College Fund (UNCF)
- White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities
- First-generation students are students whose parents did not complete 4-year degrees in the United States.
- I’m First
- First in the Family
- Hispanic-Serving Institutions are colleges and universities where at least 25% of all students enrolled identify as Hispanic.
- Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
- White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
- Hispanic Scholarship Fund
- Making Colleges Affordable Guide for Hispanic Students – includes list of scholarships
- Campus Pride Index
- 50+ LGBTQ+ Resources for Students and Their Counselors
- Official NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse: Students interested in competing in athletics at an NCAA Division I or II school should register for a Certification Account with the NCAA Eligibility Center. Students interested in Division III sports or who aren’t sure where they want to compete should create a Profile Page.
- NAIA Eligibility Center: Students interested in playing sports at an NAIA college or university should register through the NAIA Eligibility Center.
- NJCAA Eligibility Center: Athletes interested in Junior College athletics can find more information here.
Students with IEPs/504 Plans
- Postsecondary Choices Fair: Presentations and college fair highlighting colleges with specific resources for students with learning differences who are college bound. Held every year in October. Previous years’ materials are also posted.
- National Association for College Admission Counseling Resources
- Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling Resources
- Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid – for Illinois residents only: Application required to calculate a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) for students who are undocumented (must meet certain eligibility requirements) and for students who are transgender who feel that the FAFSA does not include their situation. Must be completed to be considered for state grants.