Educator Toolbox

College Portraits of Undergraduate Education

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Created By: Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA)

Audience: Students, parents, high school advisors

Focus: Information about public U.S. colleges and universities

Big Picture: The site contains listings for more than 300 public colleges and universities around the United States. Users can quickly find a school either by name or through conducting a search of schools by distance. A more advanced search narrows the list using such criteria as campus size, type of degree, or test requirements. For any school that has had a College Portrait created, users can access a detailed, highly-organized school portfolio, complete with colorful visual displays of costs, admissions statistics, post-graduation success stories, and more. The comparison feature then allows two schools to be selected and assessed side-by-side in table form.

Big Challenge Solved: It’s not the largest database of colleges around, but individual listings may be the most comprehensive, intuitive, and engaging—so users who are curious about specific public universities should make this their first web destination.

Must-Use: A Flash-animated map of the United States allows users to roll over and click highlighted areas to generate a list of public colleges in that state.

Most Unique Tool: The comparison tool is simple yet meaningful—easily choose two schools (from drop-downs) and then review lots of key information about both in a visually-appealing layout.

Best Middle-School Student Tool: The site is so laser-focused it doesn’t have a lot of extras, but that’s why it features a quality list of additional resources. For example, after checking out some portraits, students could link out to KnowHow2GO, a smart and engaging college-prep site.

Best High-School Student Tool: Advanced search helps students who don’t have particular colleges in mind, but would like to choose from a list that meets such criteria as distance from home, enrollment size, or special mission (Hispanic-serving, for instance).

Protip: All users should take a moment and sign up to receive news and updates about the site’s creator, the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA)—it’s a unique project dedicated to providing utter transparency in higher-education initiatives.

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