Resources from the National College Access Network
You can also reach out to a college access organization near you by searching the NCAN directory.
Steps2College.org: This one-stop site lets students in the college-going process learn about applications and student aid options, celebrate college decisions, and understand critical enrollment steps once they have decided where to go – all in one place! Whether you’re a student, family member, or school counselor, resources and important dates are right here. This website is a collaboration of NCAN and members American College Application Campaign and ACT Center for Equity in Learning, as well as American University and Better Make Room.
College Greenlight: With free registration, this NCAN member lets advisors provide customized college match advising to their students, monitor their students’ results and status in the college search process, and access “the largest database of private and university scholarships, including scholarships specifically for first generation and underrepresented students.”
The Common Application: NCAN member Common App offers a single admission application that’s accepted by more than 700 colleges, and one feature allows advisors to view the in-progress applications of their students.
The TalentED Project: NCAN member The TalentED Project is a a free digital tool that builds relationships between high school counselors or college access professionals and admissions recruiters to match first-generation, lower-income college-goers with select four-year colleges.
NACAC: The National Association for College Admission Counseling assembled information on associated fee waivers for low-income students applying for colleges, transferring colleges, and taking the SAT or ACT.
Accredited Schools Online: This free website lets users explore accredited online schools by major, state or degree level.
ACT Profile: A free, mobile resource from NCAN member ACT to help students learn more about themselves and the college and career paths they may want to explore. Students create an account on a computer, smartphone or tablet to access college and career planning assessments that pinpoint their interests, values and skills, and then use that information to populate interactive maps with connected careers and academic majors.
Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce: This website allows students to explore national and state salary data, searchable by degree level and major.
CareerVillage.org: This free website crowdsources career and school guidance for youth from 10,000 professional volunteers. It covers more than as many career topics and allows users to “Get Advice” or “Give Advice,” which is searchable by career and geographic region. It also includes lesson plans for students to learn about careers.
Workforce Data Quality Campaign: This website has state-specific information about states’ workforce data systems and resources, as well as a blueprint identifying key features of an aligned, inclusive, and market-relevant state data system. It also maintains a blog on the topic.
Launch My Career: An interactive web tool (currently for Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Florida) that provides students with information about the return on investment in a certificate or degree from public postsecondary schools, including technical schools and community colleges. The data also identifies “hot jobs” in demand across the state and in particular regions, their earnings potential and applicable courses of study.
22 Essential Websites for Low-Income Students
NCAN staff recommend the following websites and tools for low-income students seeking information about college options, applications, costs and financial aid. They are sorted by category: General Information, Award Letter Comparison Tools, and Scholarships.
College Planning, Admission, and Financial Aid
BigFuture: NCAN member The College Board hosts BigFuture, a website rife with information about finding a good-fit college, getting in and paying for it – including a college cost calculator – as well as exploring careers and creating a step-by-step road map to college as early as the 8th grade. Students can also create a free account to register for the SAT, get and send their SAT scores, apply online to colleges and for certain financial aid, and add schools to a customized college list.
College Abacus: A one-stop, secure search site that helps students and families compare the net price estimates of more than 5,000 colleges before students apply and before any financial aid determination is made. Also available in Spanish, College Abacus is offered as a free public resource by nonprofit entity ECMC Group, an NCAN member.
College Greenlight: This NCAN member offers a free database for first-generation and underrepresented students with thousands of easily searchable scholarships, grants and merit-aid opportunities, including a customized list of awards based on students’ academic, social and community accomplishments.
College Raptor: This NCAN member is a free college search and planning site that helps students find prospective colleges based on their academics, desired majors, location preferences, extracurricular interests, and financial circumstances. College Raptor offers side-by-side comparisons of estimated financial aid packages along with simplified campus match scores and admission chances. No registration is required. The free mobile app (Scholarship Calculator) available on iOS and Android allows students to access tools on their phones.
College Scorecard: The redesigned, free College Scorecard, launched by the U.S. Department of Education under President Barack Obama, aims to give students and families “the most reliable, comprehensive, nationally comparable data ever produced on institutional outcomes. These include statistics on debt, federal loan repayment, completion rates, and post-college earnings of alumni in an easy-to-understand format.” Users can search by college program or degree, location or size, among other options.
Fafsa.gov: Here, students can file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The U.S. Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid operates this site, which also includes information about financial aid deadlines, filing options and eligibility – all free.
Federal Trade Commission: The FTC has information about scholarship and financial aid scams, and cautions students to look and listen for certain red flags.
Get Schooled: Students with questions about college entrance exams, applications, scholarships or financial aid can text COLLEGE to 335577 – or DINERO to 335577 for Spanish – to get answers via text message. The website and mobile platform also offer tips for succeeding in high school, a scholarship database, and tools to explore college options and find a job to help pay for it. A new feature allows students to view FAFSA priority deadlines by state.
Official SAT Practice: Khan Academy and NCAN member The College Board offer free, personalized SAT practice that’s available anytime, anywhere. Features include eight official full-length practice tests, study and test-taking tips, a tailored practice plan, instant feedback, and thousands of interactive practice questions, video lessons, and hints.
Scholarships.com: Allows high school, college, nontraditional and adult learners to complete a free profile and then get matched to eligible scholarships and grants from colleges, universities, organizations, foundations, corporations, government and more. In addition to its scholarship directory, the website compares searchable information on more than 4,000 colleges and universities, including admission statistics, athletics, enrollment data, academic majors, tuition and financial aid.
The Common Application: NCAN member Common App offers a single admission application that’s accepted by more than 700 colleges. Students can enter their information one time and apply to multiple schools, receive alerts when important dates and deadlines are approaching, and track their submitted documents and outstanding tasks.
Award Letter Comparison Tools
BigFuture: NCAN member The College Board hosts BigFuture, a website rife with information about finding a good-fit college, getting in and paying for it – including a college cost calculator and a tool to compare financial aid awards from different institutions.
College Abacus: A one-stop, secure search site that helps students and families compare more than 5,000 colleges before students apply and before any financial aid determination is made. Estimates cover college sticker price, financial aid, and net price. Also available in Spanish, College Abacus is offered as a free public resource by nonprofit entity ECMC Group, an NCAN member.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: The CFPB’s Financial Aid Comparison tool allows students to compare financial aid offers for up to three schools at a time. If a student doesn’t yet have a financial aid offer from a school, this tool can also help show where to find and compare relevant costs and provide a better idea of how college costs and financial aid might impact him down the road.
Finaid.org: Offers various calculators, including one to project college costs, another to design a savings plan, and others to calculate estimated loan payments and Expected Family Contribution (a number the government uses to determine students’ federal financial aid).
American Indian Graduate Center: AIGC administers several private scholarships for eligible students who demonstrate financial need as well as personal enrollment in a federally recognized American Indian tribe or Alaska Native group, or meet other certain criteria. Its website also maintains a listing of non-AIGC scholarship opportunities.
Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund: APIASF lists scholarship opportunities for Asian American and Pacific Islander students, including the APIASF General Scholarship Program, and another available to students attending certain Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions.
Hispanic Scholarship Fund: The HSF Scholarship helps students of Hispanic heritage obtain a college degree. Scholarships are available, on a competitive basis, to eligible high school seniors, undergraduate students, community college students transferring to four-year universities, and graduate students.
scholarships a-z: Provides an online scholarship list for which students are eligible regardless of their immigration status.
United Negro College Fund: UNCF manages various scholarship programs, and maintains a website featuring those as well as internships and fellowships. Students can also search for a scholarship based on their demographic characteristics.
8 Essential Websites for College Access Leaders
NCAN staff recommend the following websites and resources for leaders of college access and success organizations. They are sorted by category: Nonprofit Management, College Access & Success-Specific, and Communications & Technology.
BoardSource: The leading provider of training and resource materials about effective nonprofit board practices. Topics include board responsibilities, succession planning, model bylaws, board assessment, CEO evaluation, strategic planning, diversity and inclusion, and many more. Fees apply.
Blue Avocado: The bimonthly e-newsletter (circulation: 64,000) of American Nonprofits created by and for community-based nonprofits featuring articles about board relations, HR challenges, volunteer management, finance, and organizational strategy. Free but donation requested.
College Access & Success-Specific
Lumina Foundation Daily Higher Education News: Free daily newsletter (circulation: 5,000) with headlines from around the country about how to help more Americans obtain a postsecondary education. If you need to stay informed about the latest news and trends in college access and success, this is the first email you should read each morning.
National Student Clearinghouse StudentTracker: Data source for tracking postsecondary student enrollment, persistence, transfer, and completion across the United States. More than 3,600 public and private colleges and universities report data to the Clearinghouse, representing 98 percent of postsecondary students. Any organization —nonprofit, school district, or university outreach program — interested in the postsecondary outcomes of its students should consider subscribing to StudentTracker. Fees apply.
Communications & Technology
Smart Chart: Free interactive online tool from Spitfire Strategies for nonprofits to plan strategic communications goals, audiences, and messages. Plan first to ensure your message has the best possible chance to be heard.
Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN): Membership organization of nonprofit technology professionals. NTEN provides webinars, online learning, and in-person events on topics including technology project planning, digital strategy, social media, and data management. Member/nonmember fees apply; free monthly newsletter.
Idealware: Provides impartial, thoroughly researched, and easy-to-understand publications, assessments, and training to help nonprofits use technology to create greater social impact. Topics include donor management, HR technology, online conferencing, CMS databases, text messaging, website development, and many more. Free online resources; fee for some online training; free monthly newsletter.
TechSoup: Product donation program provides eligible nonprofit organizations with discounted software, hardware, services, and training. TechSoup's catalog includes more than 375 products from over 100 companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, Intuit, and Symantec. Additional resources include free newsletter and forums.