College Search Tools: Using the College Matrix

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Students doing a college search on smart phones and laptops

There are several great tools available online to help inform your college search. Now that you’ve learned more about what types of colleges there are, and what to consider when choosing a best-fit school, your search process can begin! Take some time to explore these college search tools and learn how to use the College Forward College Matrix.

Where to Start Your Search

Institution Specific Websites

Do you have a few colleges in mind? If so, their website is a great place to start! Most schools will have a “first-time, future, or prospective students” section on their website that will have tons of great information for you.


The BigFuture College Search tool, powered by College Board, allows you to dictate what you are most interested in during your college search and will generate a list of colleges that meet your requirements.

Also, check out BigFuture’s 5 Steps to Creating a College List resource for additional tips!

College Scorecard

College Scorecard allows you to quickly compare the cost, graduation rate, employment rate after graduation, the average amount of loans borrowed, the loan default rate, and more of colleges and universities.

College Navigator

If you enjoy considering numbers and statistics when making a decision, this is a website for you! College Navigator provides you with tons of interesting information to use when considering a college or university.

The College Matrix

What is the College Matrix?

The College Forward College Matrix is a list of colleges structured like a fact sheet or “college at a glance” for each college that you want to apply to. The matrix can help you stay organized in the research process. 

Using the College Matrix

Step 1: Download the College Matrix

The College Forward College Matrix is a great tool to use to store all of your college research. 

Step 2: Add Your Academic Information

Fill out the top section of the College Matrix with all of your current academic information so you can have this handy when researching schools. Make sure to include your GPA, class rank, and best SAT or ACT score (you can include both if you have them).

Step 3: Add Your First Foundation School

Fill out the first row with information from one of your foundation schools. You’ll want to capture:

  • Name of School & Location
  • Distance from your home
  • Your potential major at that school
  • Is it a public or private school?
  • What is the student to faculty ratio
  • Any assured admissions standards or the average ACT/SAT scores
  • The total cost of attendance
  • The average percent of need met and the average financial aid package amount
  • Three reasons why you are interested in THIS college

Step 4: Repeat Step 3 for All Schools

Now complete the rest of your College Matrix with information from the remaining foundation schools, your two target schools, and your reach school.

Next Steps

Applying to at least four different colleges can go a long way in providing you with more college options when you are deciding where to commit. Next, let’s talk about paying for college.

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