Resources from the National College Attainment Network
Check out the National College Attainment Network (NCAN) website, which has a fantastic Resources page that includes these Essential Websites for Students & Professionals
You can also reach out to a college access organization near you by searching the NCAN directory.
The following websites and tools have been vetted and recommended by NCAN’s Advisory Task Force, a group of practitioners engaged in college access and success work. Each website provides access to resources to support underrepresented students as they apply to, enter, and succeed in postsecondary education.
BigFuture College Search: BigFuture is the free college planning tool from NCAN member The College Board. The BigFuture website is full of information designed to help students find good-fit colleges among 3,500 institutions and leverage resources like the college comparison tool and campus visit guide. Students’ BigFuture accounts are the same ones they’ll use to register for the SAT, get and send their SAT scores, add schools to a customized college list, and access scholarship opportunities.
College Greenlight: With free registration, NCAN member College Greenlight provides advisers access to customized college match resources for their students, including the ability to monitor their students’ progress through the college search process. Advisers gain access to a database that is searchable by college name and includes fulsome details on admissions information, tuition and costs, deadlines, academics and majors, and student reviews.
College Raptor: This NCAN member organization provides a free college search and planning site that helps students find prospective colleges based on academics, desired majors, location preferences, extracurricular interests, and financial circumstances. College Raptor offers detailed information on colleges and allows students to rank colleges based on their interests.
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.
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 Academy: NCAN member ACT, Inc. provides students access to ACT Academy, a free online learning tool and test practice program designed to help students earn the best score possible on the ACT test. Students can access a personalized study plan based on their ACT test scores; PreACT scores; official practice tests; and diagnostics administered through the platform. The tool offers video lessons, interactive practice questions, full-length practice tests, educational games, and other materials targeted to students’ academic needs.
Official SAT Practice - Khan Academy: Khan Academy offers free, personalized SAT practice available anytime, anywhere to students seeking to improve their SAT scores. The College Board and Khan Academy have found 20 hours of practice using the site’s resources “is associated with an average 115-point increase from the PSAT/NMSQT to the SAT, nearly double the average gain without Khan.” Features include eight full-length official practice tests, study and test-taking tips, a tailored practice plan, instant feedback, and thousands of interactive practice questions, video lessons, and hints.
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.
Fastweb: This website provides students with scholarship opportunities that are targeted to their skills and interests. Students also have access to resources that can help them make informed financial decisions and explore part-time job opportunities in the industries that interest them most.
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.
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).
SwiftStudent: Students can learn about the financial aid appeal process, review eligibility requirements, and customize free template appeal letters to submit to their college financial aid office. This virtual resource guides students through the appeal process relating to numerous special circumstances that may make them eligible for an adjustment to their financial aid, such as recent job loss of a parent, a medical crisis, and loss of childcare or housing.
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.
College Board Opportunity Scholarships: Launched in fall 2018, the College Board Opportunity Scholarships program outlines six important steps in the college planning process and offers students a chance to earn a scholarship for each action they complete. Students and advisers can leverage the scholarship opportunities through each phase of the college planning process. Additionally, educators can access implementation guides to seamlessly integrate College Board Opportunity Scholarships into their existing programming.
RaiseMe: Students can sign up for free to create a RaiseMe account and earn micro-scholarships for their accomplishments as early as 9th grade. High school students and college students attending community colleges or four-year colleges can add their achievements to their RaiseMe portfolio and earn a micro-scholarship for each of their achievements from specific colleges. If the student attends the college, they will be awarded the micro-scholarship.
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.
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.