How to Use the College Scorecard
The College Scorecard is one of the most powerful tools for students and parents in the admissions and financial aid processes. The College Scorecard was launched by the federal government in 2015 as a way to provide reliable data about college cost, starting salary for graduates, and student debt.
For students, the College Scorecard is a useful research tool to understand what a college costs and how much money you can expect to earn afterwards.
Related: How to choose a college
Using the College Scorecard
The College Scorecard is a comparison tool that allows students and parents to compare colleges by a number of factors.
For our purposes the most important factors are the Average Annual Cost (or Net Cost), the Graduation Rate, and the Salary After Attending. These factors will help you determine your college Return on Investment by answering these three questions:
- Will the college be affordable?
- Am I likely to graduate?
- What type of salary am I likely to be making upon graduation?
This is useful information both for both selecting colleges that you may apply to and for making a financial decision. Now, let’s dive into these three big questions that you can answer with the College Scorecard:
Will the college be affordable?
The College Scorecard has a number of important data points focused on college affordability. Specifically, the Average Annual Cost is useful to look at because it will give you a sense of whether a college offers generous financial aid.
There is even a chart that breaks down annual price income bracket:
The Scorecard also provides information about the average student loan burden over four years. This will give you a sense of how much money students must pay back in student loans.
Note that the most accurate college cost estimate will be through the Net Price Calculator.
Am I likely to graduate?
Graduation rate (or the percentage of students who graduate within six years of starting college) is important to consider, because the value of college is based on actually earning a degree. As a benchmark, the average six year graduation rate is 60% according to the National Center of Education Statistics.
What type of salary am I likely to be making upon graduation?
One of the best stats you can discover through the College Scorecard is average salary after graduation. This can be really helpful for determining whether your student loan burden is appropriate. The College Scorecard even allows students to view salaries according to specific major which adds additional context.
For more context: What is the average starting salary out of college?
Bottom line for students
The College Scorecard should be an essential tool in every student’s research toolkit. Used alongside other key college research tools like campus visits, talking to staff and faculty, and interviewing current students, the College Scorecard can help give you a well-rounded look at the college or university that is the best fit for you! To get started, you can search the College Scorecard by a specific college or university.
Once you’ve used the College Scorecard to decide on a college, it’s time to start hunting for scholarships! For the vast majority of students, college is a huge financial burden. You can lighten that burden by using our scholarship search tool to find custom scholarship matches. And don’t forget to apply to a wide range of colleges within your preferences. It’s a good idea to apply to a spread of reach schools as well as financial safety schools, such as an-state public institution.
Good luck in your college search and remember to check out our wide array of other resources to answer all your questions through the college admissions process.