How does CollegesLike work?

The magic of CollegesLike begins with a lot of data. The data on 6,374 colleges and universities comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Then we eliminated colleges that did not meet certain criteria. Colleges in our search must be:


The colleges that remained are the 3,477 institutions that are included in CollegesLike. This gave us a core snapshot of colleges, and especially student demographics, academics, admission standards, and financial data.

But that’s just data and doesn’t say enough about colleges. So we added some additional objective data, including: NCAA division, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal colleges, women’s colleges, military service academies, religious affiliations, non-profit or for-profit status, region/location, and the special educational focuses of colleges.

Next, we brought the secret sauce! The staff have a combined 112 years of service working on college campuses, and while everyone has worked professionally in Admission, three members of the team were Vice Presidents of Admission at colleges and universities that are consistently ranked among the Top 10 in America. We argued about things like, “What are the ‘Southern Ivies’?” and “How much are Brandeis and Smith like the NESCAC colleges?” Answers to these questions are subjective, but we came to a consensus and figured out which campus cultures are similar and which ones are dissimilar.

All of this – national data, objective data, and campus culture - resulted in 211 different metrics. Finally, we had to figure out how much to weigh each of the 211 metrics so that the results make sense.

The Engineering Team took the data from the Data & Search Engine Team and wrote it into an algorithm, using MYSQL query language. Then the Engineering Team put the search engine into the website using PHP.

Why are some colleges not included in CollegesLike?

There are 3,477 colleges and universities included in CollegesLike! Yet some colleges and universities are not included. In order to be included in CollegesLike, a college must meet all of the requirements listed above.

At some point, we may choose to expand our search parameters. There are some fine colleges outside of the 3,477 on this website. But at this time, these terms define which colleges are included in CollegesLike.

Might the search results change if I perform the same search at a later date?

Absolutely, for several reasons:

Who created CollegesLike and why?

CollegesLike was created by college and university admission staff, most who were at the Vice President level. We worked with college admission data every day.

After seeing lots of high school kids and their parents feel very lost in the college search and admission process, we decided to partner with some friends in Silicon Valley and create a search engine. We wanted to create a website that would help all students, and especially those without access to private college coaches, to be able to draw up a short list of colleges to research more quickly and efficiently.

We also wanted to make sure we didn’t ignore community colleges and regional universities. A lot of other college search websites seem to think only 400 “elite” colleges in America matter. They’re wrong, and we wanted the full range of colleges to be reflected in our website.

What if I disagree with CollegesLike’s data?

Smart people can disagree with each other.

You can send us an email and carefully explain what your concern is. If you’d like a response, please be polite. Send it to

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