22 Essential Websites for Low-Income Students

NCAN staff recommend the following websites and tools for low-income students seeking information about college options, applications, costs and financial aid. They are sorted by category: General Information, Award Letter Comparison Tools, and Scholarships.


General Information

ACT Profile: A free, mobile resource from NCAN member ACT to help students learn more about themselves and the college and career paths they may want to explore. Students create an account on a computer, smartphone or tablet to access college and career planning assessments that pinpoint their interests, values and skills, and then use that information to populate interactive maps with connected careers and academic majors.

Steps2College.org: Steps2College is a one-stop site for students going through the college-going process. They can learn about the college application process and what student aid options are available, celebrate college decisions, and understand the 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.

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.

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.

Get Schooled: Students with questions about college entrance exams, applications, scholarships or financial aid can text COLLEGE to 335577 – or DINERO to 335577 for Spanish – to get answers via text message. The website and mobile platform also offer tips for succeeding in high school, a scholarship database, and tools to explore college options and find a job to help pay for it. A new feature allows students to view FAFSA priority deadlines by state.

Launch My Career: An interactive web tool (currently for Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Florida) that provides students with information about the return on investment in a certificate or degree from public postsecondary schools, including technical schools and community colleges. The data also identifies “hot jobs” in demand across the state and in particular regions, their earnings potential and applicable courses of study.

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).


Scholarships

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.