This article was originally written for, now a part of

There are more than 4,000 degree-granting post-secondary institutions in the US. Many high school students don’t know where to start. And it’s even more intimidating for students who are the first in their families to attend college.

Sure, there are lots of college search tools on the Web already. The US government (when it’s open), has the most comprehensive one: College Navigator. It has hundreds of search criteria you can use. That’s great if you need to find something REALLY specific: like a Jesuit school with ROTC in a large suburb where the 75th percentile SAT score is less than 1500 and you can major in music.

But that doesn’t describe most students. So, what about the students who just want to find an accredited school that’s affordable and easy to get to, has a healthy graduation rate, and won’t load them up with debt they can’t repay? Where do they start?

We wanted to take some of the “scary” out of the college search process. So, we developed a college search tool, called FirstFind, that’s different from the rest. A student gives only two pieces of data: the city near which they would like to attend college, and whether they’re looking for 2-year or 4-year schools. A list of up to 10 schools (based on location, cohort default rate on student loans, graduation/retention rate, and net tuition paid by low-income families, after financial aid is taken into account) is automatically generated and displayed on the map. Students can view additional details on the schools, print out their contact information (including Admissions and Financial Aid contacts), and get started on their applications.

There’s no registration required. We don’t even ask students for their names.

Voila! College search made simple. Go to and see for yourself.