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Parent of a high school sophomore or junior? There are two things you should do today to help your child begin the college search
Here are my favorite, 100% free, college planning resources
Written by Jack Delehey on August 26th, 2022
The internet has, to some extent, evened the playing field when it comes to college admissions. Any high schooler (or parent of a high schooler) can access detailed, pertinent college planning information these days. And much of that information is entirely free.

But a typical complaint I hear from families who reach out to me is the following:

There’s just SO MUCH information out there. I don’t know how to sift through it!

So let me try to help. Below are my five favorite, 100% free, resources out there on the internet today. I have heavily vetted, tested, and re-tested each of one of them personally. Hopefully this can help you get over that too much information hurdle and start helping your high schooler plan for college today.
1. CollegeBoard’s Big Future Website: Don’t know where to start your college search? Start here. I call this “shopping for a used car…but college version.” You can sort by dozens of filters, including location, campus size, academic offerings and many, many more filters. This allows students and parents a one-stop-shop to begin the exploratory phase of the college search, taking thousands of possible schools in the United States, and narrowing the funnel to perhaps just a few-dozen that could be a fit.
2. The Fiske Guide to Colleges: The single most direct, honest, thoughtful “learn about colleges” guide out there, in my humble opinion. And yes, I’ve read a lot of them. If, for example, you read Princeton Review’s Guide to colleges, it makes it seem like every college out there is the most amazing, incredible, life changing college on the planet. The problem with this is it makes it hard for students to begin to narrow & filter their list. The Fiske Guide is honest, providing direct student quotes & insights (Ex: “The dining hall food is terrible!) that actually allow high schoolers to learn about schools and start narrowing their list. Combine this tool with #1 above and you’ve got a tag-team approach to really start tackling that school list.
3. This serves a similar purpose as the Fiske Guide…but it’s an online version. For those parents whose high schoolers scoff at “old school paperback books”, perhaps send them here instead of the Fiske Guide. A great resource and one my students use often. PRO TIP: offers two features I find very useful:
  • The College Comparison Tool: Compare schools side by side. Often is helpful when making final cuts to your school list
  • The “Similar Colleges” feature…when you’re on a college profile, scroll all the way down to the “similar colleges” button to find schools that have similar characteristics. Talk about a simple, efficient method to find schools that are a fit. Here’s a brief video of me explaining how this feature works, 
4. CollegeSimply: This resource has become tremendously valuable since the vast majority of colleges across the country went test-optional. Now it’s important for a student to determine if their test scores are worthy of sending to a specific school…and that decision may change for each school on their list. Have no fear! Utilize this tool to see the average test scores of admitted students. If your score is above the 50% mark, you should absolutely submit your score!
5. CollegeVine’s Admissions Calculator: There are a lot of admissions calculators out there. This one is the best. Hands down. It’s detailed, accurate, and ultimately serves one purpose: It will help you determine, generally, what your chances of admission are! This will allow you to set up your school list with an appropriate balance of Safety/Probable/Target/Reach so you can feel confident during application season.
I hope this helps you and your high schooler kickstart the college planning journey.

To your college planning success!

P.S. - If you found this helpful and would like to chat about your particular situation, I’m always here (and chatting with me is always free!).

Jack Delehey

Jack Delehey (Vanderbilt '14) is a college admissions expert originally from Concord, MA and now resides in Denver, CO.  It is his goal to pass on his college admission knowledge, strategies, and unique perspective to high school students in a young, fun, relatable, older-brother type manner.

The college application process is often confusing and stressful. But it just doesn't have to be that way! If you are interested in gaining clarity, peace of mind, and a detailed step-by-step program to help your child through the college application process, reach out and request a free strategy session today.
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