Choosing the right school: 11 sites that'll help

High school students are getting close to deciding which colleges they will want to attend. But making that decision can be difficult, so we've compiled some resources.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
4 min read

By now, many prospective college students have received responses from all the colleges to which they've applied. But now comes the hard part: deciding where to go.

Luckily, there are some sites that help them in that endeavor and provide them with valid insight before they make their final decisions. Even better, these sites can also help those who haven't applied yet and are starting their initial research.

For the high school junior who is considering applying to different colleges or the high school senior who needs to make a decision, these sites are outstanding resources.

BeRecruited: BeRecruited is designed specifically for the high school athlete. Instead of waiting for a team to find the student, BeRecruited gives them an opportunity to find colleges across the United States that have the kind of athletic program for which they're looking. They can then upload information about themselves and their high school athletic performance to attract the attention of team recruiters.

Campus Explorer
CampusExplorer has a lot of great information. Don Reisinger/CNET

CampusExplorer: CampusExplorer allows students to search more than 6,000 colleges in the United States to find which campus is right for them. They can search by area, curriculum, or type of school. The site provides information on the size of the school, what it offers to students, and the attendance cost. It even has advice on getting into the school from students who have asked questions about the college on Yahoo Answers.

Cappex: Cappex requires students to sign up and create a personal profile that includes grades, extracurricular activities, and SAT/ACT scores. Once that profile is completed, they can search for colleges, learn about the schools in which they're interested, and use a handy tool called "What are my chances?" to help them determine if they really have a chance at being admitted to a particular school.

CollegeAnswer: Owned by college financial-aid company SallieMae, CollegeAnswer provides students with information about all facets of college admittance. From basic research on schools to information on paying for a college education, the site has it all. It provides in-depth information about colleges, including their demographics and attendance costs. But where it really shines is in its information about college life in general. It's an outstanding resource for prospective and current students.

CollegeBoard: Although CollegeBoard is best known for administering the SAT exam, the organization has a great resource for college students to find practically anything they want to know about college life. The site boasts information on individual schools, including attendance cost, class sizes, and more. It also offers general information on finding a school, picking the right college, and finding a suitable budget. Much like CollegeAnswer, it's a best-in-class informational site.

LocalSchools has great information. Don Reisinger/CNET

LocalSchools: LocalSchools brings a unique design to college research. The site connects prospective students to more than 3,400 colleges and universities in the United States through a map. Students create personal profiles and search the site's Google Maps integration to see schools located in areas of interest. More importantly, LocalSchools allows college recruiters to join the site, so students can have all their questions answered before they make their decision.

Princeton Review: Princeton Review has solidified itself as one of the most trustworthy sources for college information in the space. And its site is no different. It features information on every accredited college and university in the United States. It ranks them based on the quality of their education. I could go on about the usefulness of the site, but suffice it to say that if students want some of the best and most in-depth information on colleges in the States, Princeton Review is the place to find it.

ReviewSchools: There are doubtless better ways to find out about schools than to listen to the students themselves. Realizing that, ReviewSchools might be a great resource for students who want to find out what college life at a particular university is all about. The site enables students to share their "story" about their college lives. Some students discuss curriculum, and others cite party life, but in either case, it helps a student decide if a school is the right fit.

U.S. News and World Report: Widely considered the leading and most objective college-ranking tool in the world, the U.S. News and World Report's annual rankings of the top colleges is an outstanding destination for students who want to go to the best-reputed college to which they can gain admittance. The colleges are ranked based on factors such as academic programs, extracurricular activities, acceptance rates, and research functions that can enrich the student's campus life. It's an influential resource among the most ambitious students (and parents).

USphere: USphere might not offer as much information as a site like Princeton Review, but it's still worth consulting for students looking for colleges. The site provides information on thousands of colleges and universities in the States for free, but when students sign up, more information is made available to them, including in-depth data on schools, student information, and more. It's worth trying out.

Connect with others in your search for a college on Zinch. Don Reisinger/CNET

Zinch: Zinch adds a level of social networking to the college selection process in an attempt to connect users with more than 650 colleges and universities around the world. Students can input information about themselves on the site, and while researching colleges, find potential scholarships. More importantly, they can connect with others who might be attending the same school. Coverage of universities on Zinch isn't nearly as broad as some of the others in this roundup, but the site puts a unique twist on college searches that might appeal to some students.