When I think back to the onset of my college search process I remember feeling one thing, overwhelmed. There are thousands of institutions of high education in the U.S. and many different ways to define them. The categories include combinations of big, small, public, private, urban, rural, religiously affiliated, etc. With all of these choices, and the fact that I was my parents’ first child to go through the process, it makes sense that I barely knew where to begin. The whole search began my junior year of high school in 2008, a time when different social media platforms were on the rise, but not dominating every facet of my world. So I did what everyone else before me had done, bought out the college search section of my local bookstore. I spend hours highlighting and book-marking The Princeton Review, Colleges That Change Lives, and The Fiske Guide to Colleges. From there I crafted a list and visited schools until I ultimately applied and was accepted to Boston College. Definitely a happy ending, but not without its many struggles, and meltdowns, along the way.
Now my little sister, Annie, is beginning the same process as a high school junior and she is also feeling bouts of anxiety about the whole ordeal. The difference between Annie and me, however, is that she is partaking on this journey in a time dominated by social media use. During my junior year Facebook was still being explored, iPhones weren’t invented, and the word App didn’t mean much to me. Today, Annie, as well as the thousands of other high school students who flood my office, are hyper-aware of all things social.
So it only makes sense that a shift has occurred in how today’s teenagers access information about the college search process. No longer is a book the only sufficient source. Teens want fast access to facts and figures and easy comparisons between schools. That is where apps come in. Being able to download everything you need to know about a school in an organized manner allows high school students to skip the hassle of highlighting in a book. An iPhone app is also much more convenient than lugging a huge college guide around on campus tours. Scrolling through phones and making quick comparisons between colleges in real time is efficient and can help minimize stress for applicants. To demonstrate just how helpful these apps are I did some research and have reviewed below a few different options that received solid praise from users.
- College Plan
With an overall satisfaction rating of almost 100% this may be the best college search app in the game. Though it’s a bit pricy at $4.99, College Plan contains basically everything necessary for applicant success. The app consists of five unique and helpful modules: College Ranking, Preparing for College Calendar, Scholarships, College Visit Questions, and Helpful Links. I found the first two modules in the list the most impressive. The college ranking piece allows prospective students the opportunity to create a personalized list of their best options based on personal preferences and then calculates a rating for each. The other genius module is the calendar that keeps applicants and their parents on task during the process. It allows them to set reminders for submission deadlines, standardized test dates, etc. By digitally planning out month by month students and parents can feel more relaxed knowing they will not miss anything important. All in all this is definitely the most comprehensive app I could find and a very helpful tool to keep high school students organized during the search and application process!
Whether engaging on college apps or not, ultimately the best way to pick a college is by visiting the campus. That’s where Quad2Quad comes in handy. This free app helps in the itinerary-making process. While not every school across the country is included in the app, Quad2Quad helps plan which schools to visit based on characteristics like region and size. The app suggests where else to visit when a school has been selected and provides key info about parking, interviewing, and admission office hours and schedules. What I found brilliant was that it also provides space to record notes about each campus visit. After seeing a whole bunch the specifics of each college tend to blend together. This way, directly after the tour and info session, prospective students can jot down first impressions or pros and cons that can be revisited as they decide where to apply. Quad2Quad scored almost 90% for satisfaction, but could work on adding information on a wider variety of colleges.
- College FAFSA Finder
A college education is a hefty investment and the nuances of applying for financial aid are often tricky. That’s where College FAFSA Finder comes to the rescue. This app allows high school students to browse information on thousands of schools and provides easy access to important admissions contact info for each. Having it all available in one location saves time and energy when students need to know about specific financial aid policies and where to send their aid forms. Each school’s cost of attendance is also listed for quick comparison research. The best part is that app lists each schools FAFSA and CSS Profile codes, needed when filling out financial aid applications. These forms are confusing and cumbersome so having every code and contact in one app makes students’, and especially their parents’, lives a little less stressful. The other two apps are better for comparisons on school resources, offerings, and aesthetics, but this is the one you want when monetary factors are being considered.