How to Use the College Board College Search Tools

College Board College Search Tools Big Future

The front page of the College Board’s College Search tool.

The College Board doesn’t just help you get into school… It can help you find the right school through its powerful college search tools. Today, we’ll take a look at the College Board’s primary college search tool — the appropriately named College Board College Search.

To use the College Board college search tools, start on the Big Future homepage

All of the College Board college search tools are part of the College Board Big Future website. And there’s a lot more to Big Future than just its College Search tools. Big Future is also full of news articles, tips, tricks, and testimonials from other students. This information is designed to help you think about your own academic future and the decisions you’ll soon be making.

Check out Big Future’s articles and videos before you use the College Board college search tools. Big Future features quite a few college prep advice sections. These educational pages link to articles, video lessons, and testimonials from students, teachers, and test-takers. All of this content gives you valuable information that you should be thinking about as you search for schools.

Each page of Big Future content acts as a tutorial for a different aspect of getting into a good school. The Know Yourself tutorial helps you figure out which schools will be right for you personally, based on your learning needs and long-term goals. The module for Building a Support Network is similarly personal — it helps you figure out how to get assistance from family, friends, mentors, and community organizations as you prepare for your academic career. Other Big Future pages, such as Applying 101, Financial Aid 101, and College 101, teach you the basic facts of college entrance, college funding, and college study. And these are just a few examples. Be sure to explore Big Future as you start to think about what kind of school you’d like to find and apply to.

The College Board College Search Tool: What to look for

Using a variety of criteria, you can search for colleges and universities via the College Search web page. The sheer amount of search criteria on the page is quite impressive. In fact, this search tool has so many features that it can be easy to miss a valuable search option within the College Board College Search. For your convenience, I’ve listed each College Search field below, with a detailed description of what every search tool does.

    • Test scores and selectivity: Search for schools that accept a certain minimum score on the SAT or in its separate sections (Critical Reading, Math, and writing). You can also search for schools that accept a certain composite score for the ACT. And you can search for schools by selectivity, looking up universities and colleges based on the percentage of applicants that get accepted.


    • Type of school: In this search, you can look for 2-year colleges, 4-year universities, public schools, private schools, and for-profit schools. Furthermore, it’s possible to look for colleges and universities based on whether they are coed or single gender, and whether they have a specific religious affiliation. Finally, you can search for schools by their size, selecting a school that has a certain number of enrolled students.


    • Location: Here, you can search for U.S. schools by region or state. City-based searches are possible if you select a ZIP code and the area around it. (For example, if you wanted to search for schools in greater Columbia, South Carolina, this search tool could be set to find schools 50 miles or less from the ZIP code 29203.) You can even search for colleges and universities in other countries, although the College Search Tool’s international listings are somewhat limited. Their search currently only features about 50 schools outside of the United States.


    • Campus and housing: This feature lets you search for schools by setting — rural, suburban or urban. And you can seek out schools with student housing options, such as guaranteed housing for first-year students, co-ed student housing, single-gender student housing, specialized housing for certain types of students (e.g. married students or international students, and so on).


    • Majors and Learning environment: This search field lets you look for schools based on types of majors (business, health, art, etc…), and on specific majors. The broader categories of majors are pre-selected from a drop-down menu, but you’ll need to type in your own keywords to search for a specific major. Aside from searches for majors, you also can look for schools with specialized courses, such as honors programs, ESL training, double majors, and so on. Finally, you can see if a school offers evening, weekend, or early morning classes by using this search feature.


    • Sports and activities: This search tool lets you look for universities that have a specific sport or extracurricular activity. Sports are indexed by gender (women’s basketball, men’s soccer, and so on). And there are options for non-athletic extracurriculars and opportunities to join a sorority or fraternity.


    • Academic credit: In this search field, you can see what kinds of credits a school will accept and apply to your degree, either by transfer from other schools or by testing. The “academic credit” search tool lets you look specifically for schools that accept credits based on AP, CLEP, GED, and community college study.


    • Paying: The College Board realizes that school isn’t always easy to pay for. This search field helps you manage future higher education costs by looking up schools based on financial support and tuition price ranges. Additional search tools in this section help you locate schools that offer work study or waive application fees for students with financial need.


    • Support services: This helps you look for the kind of support you may need out of class. You can look for colleges and universities that offer things, such as on-campus child care, tutoring, disability services, etc…


  • Diversity: This tool generates school listings by racial demographics, checking to see if a campus has a certain percentage of minority students. And there are extra options for schools that specialize in serving African American, Hispanic, or Native American communities.

Use the other search tools on Big Future, along with the College Board college search tools

In addition to the College Search page, College Board Big Future offers two other search tools. Below, I’ll provide a link to each search tool, with a description of the tool and how it’s used.

    • College Major and Career Search: The majors & career search tool lets you look up federal information about different degree majors and the kinds of careers you can have with each major. For majors that provide training for specific jobs (for example, degrees in nursing or film production), the College Board will provide average salary for program graduates as well as a list of common work duties. For any major or career path you look up, there is a link to a custom search on the College Search page. This custom search will show schools that offer coursework and training in subjects and careers you’re interested in.


  • College Scholarship Search: The College Board’s College Scholarship Search prompts you to enter personal information, such as age, gender, race, religion, employer, and so on. Based on this information, the search tool then pulls up a list of scholarships you may be eligible for.

The takeaway

College Board’s Big Future website doesn’t just provide a college search tool — it provides the “big picture” that should inform your use of that tool. Use the whole Big Future website to research what you want, what you need, and what your path to a college degree might look like. Then use the College Board College Search service to find schools that are right for you. Armed with the information above, you should be able to start playing around with the College Board College search tools yourself, as you look for the perfect schools to apply to.

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  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he's helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master's Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he's presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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