Let's be honest: Your high school years can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming. It's the time when you start weighing seemingly endless college possibilities and start exploring your passions while maintaining your grades and living out the rest of your youth. The level of competition in the college admission pool has become cutthroat, leaving many high schoolers stressed about grades, essays, extracurriculars, recommendation letters, and every other detail that goes into your applications. Given how daunting the process can be, finding useful resources is essential to making the path to college a lot less complicated. Here’s a comprehensive list of extremely useful (and free!) online resources that can help take some of the stress out of the start of your college journey.
1. Study Hall
While you can go to college undecided, it's helpful to figure out what you might end up studying so you can start thinking about your future career, networking, and more. The Study Hall YouTube channel offers an in-depth look at a variety of college majors as well as common jobs associated with each degree, median salaries for each major, and helpful classes you can take in high school to prepare for the major of your choice. Having an idea of what you want to study is also important for building your college list, as some colleges specialize in a certain area, while others may not offer your desired major.
Seeing a few images of a college isn't going to allow you to truly understand what life on campus could be like, and visiting each college you're interested in can get very costly, very fast. CampusReel offers a nice way to get a feel for a college's student life through vlogs from actual students. Each video is shot and narrated by a current student at a specific college who gives you a quick tour of all the essential campus spots as well as a few insider details, like common campus traditions, must-see places near campus, a look into dorm life, and more. These tips can help you determine how well you'll fit in with a college's environment without physically being there.
3. College Factual
Choosing a college should be based on more than just rankings and prestige; it's important to remember your values and personal preferences. That's where College Factual comes in. This website allows you to compare a number of colleges based on many different factors like retention and acceptance rates, student-faculty ratio, and price. It also gives you a look at more hard-to-find statistics, like a school's male-to-female ratio, level of diversity, and average debt per student.
4. Unigo Reviews and Scholarships
Unigo Reviews features real, blunt, and completely honest reviews from college students that go much more in-depth than any other website, giving you a look at the political environment, safety, and general feel of any given college. The Top Questions function allows you to learn about a variety of different aspects of a college, with prompts like “What do you consider the worst thing about your school? Why?” and “What kind of person should not attend this school?" Though some of the responses can be discouraging, it's important to understand both the amazing and unfavorable elements of every college you want to apply to, ensuring you won't regret your choice once you're enrolled.
In addition to reviews, Unigo also acts as a scholarship search database. The unique feature of their database is that they offer many of their own scholarships. Most require a short essay in response to a specific prompt with a maximum of 250 words, which range from random and quirky (“What would you do if your school was overrun with zombies?") to reflective and personal (“If you had the chance to 'do over' a moment in your life, what would it be?”). There's a topic for everyone, as long as you don't mind writing a little.
Have you ever found yourself with a specific question about college (or academics in general) but didn't know who to turn to? In addition to offering extensive scholarship and college finders, Plexuss also acts as a forum for students to get quick, relevant expert and peer advice on all things academics. Their College Help forum allows you to get speedy answers to all your burning questions, and they also offer monthly $250 scholarship opportunities that require essays ranging anywhere from 200–700 words on diverse topics like religion, passions, and racial identities.
CollegeVine may be known for its admissions calculator, but other helpful features include articles and information sessions with real admission officers on every college-related topic imaginable, from mental health tips to college-specific advice to general college application help. If you’ve found a few promising colleges you’d like to learn more about, consider searching for them in CollegeVine’s livestream database, as they always record their information sessions. You’ll also find sessions about extracurriculars, picking the right major, starting a passion project, finding a job or internship, and more.
From textbook rentals to career advice, Chegg encourages you to think deeply about your future in every way. They offer financial aid advice, job search tips, and a scholarship database. They also host a number of remote high school internships that can be incredibly helpful in building your résumé, discovering your interests, and introducing you to the workforce.
Fastweb is another higher education hub that hosts helpful articles, internship listings, and online course information, but their niche is primarily on the financial side of college. Fastweb’s database displays only the most reliable and highly rewarding scholarships for people looking to further their education. They offer private and federal loan guides to make sure you feel confident and informed every step of the way and don't end up with a mountain of debt. You’ll also find a list of companies that offer college students hefty discounts just for being a student, which will come in handy once you're an undergrad!
9. Khan Academy
Khan Academy has lessons on just about every subject you can think of, which can be incredibly helpful in choosing a major or minor. You can get an in-depth look at subjects that fascinate you, such as art history, computer programming, economics, and more. They offer a life skills section that’s dedicated to college, personal finance, career, and growth tips. You’ll also find AP lessons to help you study for (or simply get acquainted with) AP classes and exams as well as SAT practice tests, videos, hints, and more.
Building-u is a small but dedicated nonprofit that provides internships and extracurricular ideas. They showcase a wide range of summer programs and internships from coding and hackathons to neuroscience and biotechnology. It’s a great resource to explore and pursue your interests more deeply and even get a feel of what you might want to do as a career in the future.
Compelling and in-depth online courses can introduce you to topics you'd typically find in college courses—but they can also be pricey or have hidden fine print. Alison is different; it’s a completely free website full of extensive and interesting online courses that allow you to go deeper into a variety of topics that interest you, such as women's studies, screenwriting, molecular cloning, artificial intelligence, and more. Each course includes thorough webinars taught by professors from a variety of institutes and universities around the world, making the content effective, comprehensive, and accurate.
12. Crash Course
The Crash Course YouTube channel is known for its extensive videos about everyday school subjects, but it also hosts an awesome informative series called “How to College,” which covers all the ins and outs of—you guessed it—navigating college. The series includes videos about choosing a school, paying for college, picking a major, and more. Crash Course offers specific and essential tips to maximize your college search and does its best to answer every topic-specific question imaginable in just eight to 12 minutes of video. They even reply to your questions if you leave them in the comments section!
From webinars and courses to articles and livestreams, there are tons of affordable online resources to help guide you along your journey to college. These websites offer free tools to help you pursue your passions, answer your questions, and offer advice for your concerns, so take advantage of them! It will take a lot of stress out of your high school years.
CollegeXpress is another great tool to help you learn about college, find scholarships, and more! Check out our CX Resources page when you’re logged in, or create a free account to gain instant access.