4 College Spreadsheet Options

Woman looking at a college spreadsheet on a laptopCollege Spreadsheets are all about the start of the college search. Too many people don’t really think about using spreadsheets until the end of the admissions process when they have to decide between colleges. At this point, it’s generally about preferences they have already established and are rankings as plus and minuses between five and ten colleges. It’s such a missed opportunity.

Why families don’t create college comparison spreadsheets

I think there are three reasons why people avoid creating college spreadsheets earlier in the admissions process.

1. People don’t like spreadsheets

Alright, I admit I’m being nice about this. I really think a lot of people are afraid of or intimidated by spreadsheets. First, there’s the number issue and whenever people start seeing or thinking about a bunch of numbers it probably sparks some element of math phobia.

Then there seems so many ways for you to do something without realizing it and making those numbers disappear. Yet, it seems impossible for you to figure out how to do the one thing you want the spreadsheet to do.

2. There are so many non-spreadsheet options available for college comparison

Given the number of websites that let you search for colleges without entering a single number into a single spreadsheet cell, why would you bother with spreadsheets? You literally do not have to even enter a number into a form (which is kind of like entering into a spreadsheet) because you can use sliders to get to the number you want. All you have to do is click on some check boxes, move the slider up or down some, and you get a list of 10 colleges to consider based on your preferences. What could be easier? Certainly not a spreadsheet!

3. Nobody likes data entry

Let’s face it, if you have a spreadsheet, it needs to have some data in it to be useful and who wants to do tedious data entry? It can be an especially daunting task at the start of the college search when there are a lot more schools in play, many of them the student will never even apply to, much less get into. It’s a much simpler proposition to compare colleges once students know what schools have accepted them.

Why you should have a college spreadsheet

The main reason you should use a spreadsheet to compare colleges is because it will allow you to compare them on factors that are important to you. Of course, this seems obvious. After all, when you create your spreadsheet at the end of the admissions process, you could be comparing it on the quality of the dorm food, availability of parking for freshman, or the presence of your favorite sport in intramurals. You have to create a spreadsheet because none of these characteristics are searchable on the college search websites.

And as far as you’re concerned, the list of colleges you started off with was fine. But chances are you’ll start rethinking that as you start to add the financial aid awards to the spreadsheet for college comparisons. For far too many families, once they enter that information, they found the college choice has already been made for them since most of the options aren’t affordable.

Use spreadsheets to target colleges most likely to provide financial aid

This is where having a college comparison spreadsheet at the beginning of the college search process can be useful. The fact is that you can’t get money from a college you’ve never applied to. The amount of financial aid students receive will all depend on which colleges they apply to.

Arrows are easy

But what about the reasons why people don’t want to mess with spreadsheets? As for being intimidated by spreadsheets, don’t be. To effectively use a spreadsheet to compare colleges, all you need to be able to do is to sort and filter. That means using the little up and down arrows you see on the interactive tables everywhere on the internet.

Compare colleges the way you want to

The problem with the non-spreadsheet options is that they often don’t provide you with useful information about colleges because it’s not information families have been trained to ask for. Students are supposed to ask about size and location and majors and academic requirements before anything else. If finances are brought up, too often the information that would provide families with useful numbers for comparison are missing. (See 5 Crucial Items Missing from Your College Comparison Spreadsheet)

And then there are things like showing the 6-year graduation rate instead of the 4-year graduation rate. Do you think taking an extra two years to graduate would make a difference in how much you pay for college? Furthermore, while the websites may show you the information for individual colleges, they make it impossible to use it to search and compare colleges.

Don’t search for data, use the data

Finally, data entry isn’t necessary, at least not at first. If nothing else, you can download all of the college data you need to start off with from the Integrated Postsecondary Education System (IPEDS). I show you how to do it here. This is the exact same information the college search websites use.

But there’s an easier way. You can just use one of the spreadsheets that I have already created which includes the IPEDS data as well as information on post-graduation salaries and student loan debt. You can also find athletic information on some of them.

Basically, I’ve set up my spreadsheets so that you can start searching for colleges and create your own custom college lists to apply to. This is the opportunity for you to start off with a broad list of colleges (and why shouldn’t you, there are over 1,500 4-year colleges) and start narrowing the number to come up with your final list. You can see an example in Find Colleges with the Most Merit Scholarships in 4 Easy Steps.

College Spreadsheets

There are two different type of spreadsheets. The first is a general college search spreadsheet and the second is specialized for sports. All spreadsheets are in Microsoft PC 2007 Excel format. You must have Microsoft 2011 for the Mac in order to use this file. Google sheets version available upon request.

College Search Spreadsheet

This spreadsheet is for any family starting the college search process. No need to copy information on size, acceptance rates, testing status, cost, and graduation rates for each school. It’s already there with the little drop-down arrows for sorting and filtering.

Some of the information you’ll find is the number of graduate students teaching undergraduate classes, the percentage of students registered with the disabilities office, and the average instruction expenses per student. It includes a tab with an explanation of all of the data, a financial aid timeline, and backup data just in case there’s an “oops.” Learn more.

For $24 you could be searching for the colleges most likely to meet your family’s needs rather than copying information from college search websites.

Add to Cart $24

College Athletic Spreadsheets

The fundamental fact of college recruiting is that you can’t be recruited if the coach doesn’t know that you exist. Gone are the days of a player being spotted at their local high school game. Too many players worry about colleges finding them. What they need to do is to find the colleges that will want them.

But how do you decide from hundreds of colleges?

It’s a lot easier when you can:

  • Sort by Divisions and Conferences
  • You can search by ACT or SAT scores.
  • Check the total cost of attendance and the average net price by family income.
  • Look-up four and five-year graduation rates for four-year colleges along with admission rates.
  • Find basic school characteristics indicating the school culture.
  • Compare colleges’ financial commitment to your sport.

Instead of spending tedious hours looking up the information for the colleges from multiple websites and entering it into a spreadsheet, you could already be filtering the information based on your personal requirements.

You can download a sample spreadsheet for a limited number of baseball programs and see how easy it is to use the data by clicking here. Or you can try the sample below.

For just $14 you can download a spreadsheet containing all four-year and two-year programs sorted into divisions for the following sports:

Free Updates for 18 months

Add to Cart Baseball: 1,662 Two and Four-Year Programs-$14
Add to Cart Softball: 1,667 Two and Four-Year Programs-$14
Add to Cart Soccer: 1,642 Two and Four-Year Programs (men and women)-$14

The following sample spreadsheet contains all of the fields included in the full spreadsheets but not all of the schools.


4 College Spreadsheet Options

16 thoughts on “4 College Spreadsheet Options”

    • Michelle,
      have you considered creating a version of this for lacrosse? I would be interested in purchasing. Or is there an easy way for me to create myself from one of the existing ones?

      • Hi Lisa,
        No spreadsheet for Lacrosse yet. Part of the problem is that it’s one of the fastest growing sports in college so the data lag in reporting matters. I do have some information:

        How Much do Colleges Spend on D1 Men’s Lacrosse Programs?
        How Much do Colleges Spend on D1 Women’s Lacrosse Programs?
        Women’s College Lacrosse Teams by State
        Men’s College Lacrosse Teams by State

        You can lookup information at http://ope.ed.gov/athletics/ to see if there is anything more recent.

        I do plan on adding other sports spreadsheets but I don’t expect to get to the data until the beginning of the year. If you have any questions on using the OPE data, let me know.


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