18 Most Popular College Review Websites
College rankings are kind of bullsh*t. There, I said it.
In recent years, the “higher education” community has become so preoccupied with the annual campus rankings that appear in publications such as U.S. News & World Report or World University Rankings that the satisfaction and development of students has ceased to be a priority. In fact, the “highered” industry often seems so internalized – so totally obsessed with things like citations and research funding – that they are completely unaffected by the common views or experiences held by the public.
On top of that, the college research process has become so infested with slick, investor-backed marketing on behalf of for-profit scam colleges (not to mention consumer “review” sites with corporate ties helping schools by deleting negative reviews, or universities reporting false figures to “trusted” publications) that selecting and applying to appropriate colleges is more confusing than ever.
Rather than relying on corrupt and misleading “college rankings”, 21st century netizens are turning to what they DO trust: student reviews. Below you will find a complete breakdown of every major college review website on the web:
Complete List Of College Review Sites
1. CollegeTimes. Of course I must start off with CollegeTimes’ very own college reviews database, formerly known as RateMyCollege. The student reviews you find on our website are 100% uncensored, submitted straight from the tens of thousands of students that visit our website every single month – along with hundreds of other students and alumni that our team contacts pro-actively. CollegeTimes, now the largest directory of higher education institutions on the internet, does not earn commission by referring visitors to certain schools, so you can be sure that the consumer reviews are accurate and unbiased. The review process is simple: institutions are rated out of 5 stars across 11 different categories, including “Stimulating Courses”, “Affordability”, and even “Hotness Factor”. CollegeTimes actively removes and reports (via Twitter) the dozens of fake “positive” reviews that marketing employees spam on our website, and even labels each college according to how transparent and responsive they are. With this approach, CollegeTimes aims to simplify the way colleges are rated by focusing on two aspects: the academic attitude of an institution, and the satisfaction of the students who attended.
2. StudentsReview. Besides CollegeTimes, the only other truly significant college database on the web maintained by an independent team. Launched back in 2000 by Beracah Yankama, an alumnus of the University of Michigan and MIT, it has outranked every college review site on Google ever since. Known for its extremely basic design, StudentsReview garners hundreds of new student reviews every week, using a “grading system” of A through F. Visitors can rate each college in areas such as “Education Quality” or “Social Life” among other self-created categories, such as “Too Many Mormons” and “Can’t Believe It’s a University.” Because of its independent status, the student reviews are some of the most honest and uncensored on the internet – and because of this, StudentsReview is quite regularly a target of SLAPP lawsuits and legal threats – something that CollegeTimes can relate closely with. If for some reason the CollegeTimes website is ever down, this is the other website we recommend. ;)
3. GetEducated.com. More of an “online degree” database than a comprehensive college database, GetEducated allows users to review their experience with online degrees. Founded and (still) directed by Vicky Phillips, who launched her original version of “distance education consulting” on AOL in 1989. With services like Diploma Mill Police and areas where users can self-rank online colleges based on their own experiences, GetEducated is one of the only reputable consumer resources on the web when it comes to online degrees. Phillips shares CollegeTimes’ hatred of unaccredited institutions who prey on innocent students around the world, implementing strict advertising rules and displaying an exceptionally high degree of transparency.
4. Campus Explorer. One of the shiniest looking websites available in the college review niche, with an aggressive marketing team that seems to get their “search widgets” embedded all over the internet (heck, even StudentsReview has one). For some reason, Campus Explorer does appear to remove pretty much all negative information or critical student reviews from their database, and even seems to block users from reviewing certain poorly reputed schools (that can’t seem to get any positive reviews?). And while Explorer is more transparent than most about where their college data comes from, at the end of the day this venture-capital backed company cares about one thing only: funneling thousands of student leads into unaccredited for-profit colleges.
- See also: Campus Explorer Attempts To Coerce CollegeTimes Into Compliance Contract For For-Profit Colleges
5. College Prowler. If you could combine an organized crime group with some annoying as heck telemarketers, College Prowler would be that monster. What used to set this company apart from most college review websites was their full-color guides you could purchase at most local bookstores (although, this part of their business recently died – before Web 2.0 caught on, College Prowler guidebooks had truly “snuck” up on the boring, outdated black-and-white college guides of yester-year.) At first glance, their website seems to be OVERFLOWING with useful data on thousands of campuses – things like “Drug Safety” or “Off-campus dining” have information that you probably won’t find anywhere else. Unfortunately, the source of most of their data is secret and unexplained, as their new parent company Niche.com arbitrarily mixes data from government databases, school administrators, and students themselves, without communicating to visitors which data is which. Yes, they literally allow campus marketing directors to login and update school profiles however they see fit. In effect, the Prowler team has attempted to create a complex website structure aimed at ranking high in Google results and to keep users clicking around the site – which, by the way, you can’t do unless you register a new account and submit more personal information to their marketing team than even the IRS asks for. College Prowler has also been caught committing fraud against Facebook users, and censoring and redacting their “open” scholarship database. In short, the site is a massive ponzi scheme setup and run by Mark Kantrowitz and friends – the guy behind FastWeb (FinAid.Org) – and Prowler’s acquisition in 2001 by TMP (Monster.com) only seems to have quickened their pace.
6. Unigo. A typical lesson in over-hyped investor funding and 15 minutes of media attention. Unigo is one of those companies started by a just-finished-college wantrepreneur (I’ve been one too), whose business plan isn’t very thought out or scalable, but who tracks down a rich alumnus from his college who offers him money to launch the thing anyway. Unigo offers personal college coaching to high school students and others who are looking to apply to college, starting from $99/hour to $599/year for live web counseling sessions. (Because clearly, teenagers have cash to drop on information they can search on Google – or CollegeTimes – free of charge.) The traffic to their website has slowed to a crawl in recent years – not to mention their rather ambiguous spinoff project College Switchboard than never even got launched – until a few months ago when Unigo investors decided to dump the company and sold it off to EDPlus Holdings, whose blog about scholarships – ScholarshipExperts.com – embarrassingly gets more traffic than Unigo. Ultimately, while they do have some nice looking video tours and in-depth student “reviews” – which are actually paid for and selected by Unigo – everything seems to maintain a rather 4.5 star sort of attitude, unsurprisingly, which does nothing to help students make difficult decisions.
7. CampusDiscovery. Staying on the EdPlus Holdings beat a while longer, they also own and maintain Campus Discovery. Its probably one of the more straightforward college databases out there, which simply pulls public data from the federal IPEDS database and doesn’t do a lot more than that. What’s a bit bothersome, however, is the way that all the various EdPlus websites blatantly cross-promote each other without any disclaimer about all being owned by the same corporate entity. In addition, Campus Discovery has recently decided to go the route of College Prowler, in forcing new visitors to sign up for various “scholarship opportunities” instead of connecting them with college profiles – most of which seem to lack any student reviews to begin with. Unfortunately, it looks like the future of both Campus Discovery and Unigo are going to be part of whatever sketchy future plan is unfolding over at EdPlus Holdings – and from the looks of it, its nothing more than another scheme involving financial aid profiteering.
8. College Confidential. Originally an independent forum built by Webmaster World administrator Roger Dooley, College Confidential was purchased in 2008 by Hobsons. Primarily organized as a web discussion forum based on vBulletin software, the site recently redesigned a bit, which unfortunately did little to improve usability. Their “talk” section is still by far the most popular feature of the website, featuring high traffic threads on thousands of topics including the well-known “What Are My Chances?” board, along with SAT/ACT preparation topics. With top rankings in Google for search terms such as “college forum”, Hobsons for years now has appeared too scared to renovate the website much, instead using it more as a springboard to promote some of their other websites and services such as CollegeView. All in all, its probably one of the more reliable sources of feedback from other users, despite being infiltrated by admissions reps.
9. CollegeView. If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone. Despite its domain being registered in 1994 – dinosaur years when it comes to the internet – CollegeView has been rather slow (yet steady) to garner more web traffic. Originally launched by American entrepreneur Bill Cunningham, the site was sold to Hobsons way back in 1999. (Hobsons, in turn, is actually a division of Daily Mail and General Trust plc (DMGT), a British corporation and owner of the high traffic Daily Mail newspaper.) As is the case with College Confidential’s “Vibe” campus profiles, many of the schools on CollegeView lack student reviews, and the data being presented is nothing unique or spectacular – once again appearing to be simply pulled directly from the federal IPEDS database. One thing I can say about Hobsons web properties is that they are more transparent about ownership and purpose than other “college review” websites on the internet. Perhaps our cousins across the pond have a bit more corporate discipline.
10. HowToGetIn.com. Well whad’ya know, another higher education company tied to Mark Kantrowitz and FastWeb. HowToGetIn was originally branded CollegeGrader, as their parent company Edvisors attempted to spam Google search results with duplicate content on multiple domains. When that stopped working after Google’s famous “Penguin” algorithm update, Edvisors decided to redirect CollegeGrader over to HowToGetIn. Unsurprisingly, student “reviews” are actually just some lonesome “stars” left over from the days of CollegeGrader and do not have any comments attached; most for-profit scam schools also somehow have 4 or 5 star rating averages, despite having horrendous reputations on other consumer review websites such as CollegeTimes.
11. StudentAdvisor. Owned by Graham Holdings Company (The Washington Post) and Kaplan, Inc, StudentAdvisor seems to have gone through a few identity crises over the years. First launched by a group of MIT and University of Massachusetts : Amherst students, the 2007 acquisition by The Washington Post was, in hindsight, probably a compulsive purchase (kind of like when CNN partnered with the Mixx social network). StudentAdvisor continues to remain in some sort of holding pattern – the campus profiles have basic statistics, but no years are mentioned and the source of the data is not disclosed. Interestingly, the community still receives a fair amount of student reviews; however, once again most of the “controversial” schools mysteriously always seem to get their negative reviews deleted. Apparently Kaplan cares more about profits.
12. Cappex. Probably the fanciest search tool available next to Campus Explorer these days. Shamefully, however, Cappex is just another corporate pawn in the game of screwing over students. For-profit scam schools like ITT Tech with horrible online reputations have mysteriously received tons of 5 star reviews on Cappex, who even goes so far as to hide the “student reviews” link on that school’s profile. Perhaps the upside is that dozens of for-profit schools seem to be missing from their database, as they concentrate on more well-established universities. But is Cappex really trying to help students, or just profit from their “scholarship matching” system? Well, their CEO, Leon Heller was the former CEO of FastWeb, so does that answer the question? (Hint: its kind of like the travel industry presenting you with various booking websites – Kayak, Priceline, Agoda – until you suddenly realize they are all owned by the same people.)
13. OnlineDegreeReviews.org. Despite the spammy name, OnlineDegreeReviews has actually been around for a while (since 2006) and is independently run by an anonymous webmaster from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Despite seemingly good intentions, the site appears riddled with fake “positive” reviews from marketing staff at various colleges, and is lacking hundreds of relevant schools in its directory. The project also seems keen to partner with sketchy groups like eLearners (who has ripped off the CollegeTimes team before), even selling text links to help the company rank higher in Google.
14. GuideToOnlineSchools.com. Another spammy sounding name, and purposefully so, as this website is run by SR Education Group, a rather small yet mysterious company whose CEO apparently used to work for Microsoft, and who employs blackhat SEO tactics to game Google search rankings. Their goal? To “recognize the promise of for-profit and non-selective, non-profit institutions”… or in other words, to earn commission by referring visitors primarily to unaccredited, for-profit, career institutes.
15. GradReports.com. A more clever attempt by SR Education Group to appear concerned with transparency and the well-being of students, GradReports actually seems to allow negative reviews of some of their “partner” career institutes, i.e. University of Phoenix or Ashford University. (Granted, they still allow tons of fake “positive” reviews to be posted as well, but its perhaps it’s a step in the right direction?) Unfortunately, all credibility is lost as they shove “information request” forms into your face for their partner institutions, regardless of the school profile you are browsing. And clicking on those links does NOT display any consumer reviews of the given colleges.
16. WhatUni. Founded in 2007 under the Hotcourses Group, a leading student recruitment company based in the United Kingdom, WhatUni is by far the most popular college and course search website in Britain. More recently, they’ve grown their scholarships database as well, and appear to be expanding into a few other European countries such as Sweden and Netherlands. The data appearing on college profiles is extremely thin, however, and administrators appear to be able to login and edit all parts of their profile at will, both of which should concern prospective students. That being said, the student reviews are plentiful on WhatUni and rather detailed, including expected categories such as “Accommodations” and “Job Prospects” – and in any regard, higher education fraud is much less a concern in the UK as it is in North America.
17. UniGuru. And another one bites the dust, as UniGuru was recently purchased by Hotcourses, the same UK company that owns WhatUni. Originally branded as the “study abroad site for Indian students”, the website has grown steadily and now features student reviews of colleges and universities around the world. Although the reviews are rather basic, an interesting feature of UniGuru is that they specify the minimum required IELTS and TOEFL scores on relevant school profiles, which helps non-native English speakers to prepare themselves for a serious study abroad experience. For whatever reason, UniGuru also seems to feature only regionally-accredited colleges from the United States (among other countries) which is rather commendable, as Indian and Asian students are top targets for unaccredited, for-profit scam schools in North America.
18. Iagora. The most well-known university review database in Europe, aimed largely at students looking to do an exchange semester as part of the EU’s Erasmus Program. Launched way back in 1998 by friends “Philippe and Sacha” the Iagora directory remains independent and extremely popular across Europe, featuring thousands of real student reviews of hundreds of universities, language schools, and beyond. Another popular feature of the project is their jobs and internships board that help students find work.
The following independent college review sites have all shut down recently, unfortunately: StuVu.com, TheUniversityReview.com, TheU.com, Yollege
Update 8/15/2014: Article significantly updated, expanded, and re-written. Originally posted February 6, 2011.