Enrollment Insights Blog

Using Niche to Support Students’ College Search: A Counselor and Advocate Toolkit

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Toolbox filled with laptop, pens, notebooks, and coffee.

Everyone needs tools to help them thrive in their role. For school and college counselors, this guide will help you better understand how to use Niche as a tool in your kit. Your students are already using Niche and there are likely resources we offer that you are not familiar with. One of our biggest differentiators is that Niche is free to use—we’re mission-driven to make researching and enrolling Easy, Transparent, and Free. Students also opt-in to either receive contact from schools that they’re interested in, rather than being forced to opt-out as most services are. Let’s dive in!

How students are using Niche now

Each year over 27 million students use Niche to research, apply to, and confirm their enrollment. When it comes to using the platform, one in two college-bound seniors has created a profile to manage their search. Students build lists, track their progress, schedule visits, and apply directly from Niche. This is why it’s important to understand all the great support features offered for free so that you can help students and understand what they’re using outside of your office.

Tactical: How to Help Students Discover Colleges

We will cover the features of the platform in more detail later, but here are some steps you can take to help students who aren’t sure where to start and want to discover options they hadn’t considered before.

  • Use filters in search results to find colleges that match what they want
  • Create custom ranked lists using the Your Best Fit Tool
  • Add colleges they think are a good fit to their list and then review suggestions of similar colleges

Tactical: How to Help Students Narrow Down Their List

Here are some steps you can take to help students who know where they want to apply but need help comparing colleges.

  • Use the College Compare Tool to compare colleges side-by-side 
  • Read reviews to understand how current students feel about their universities
  • Schedule visits or see virtual tours on profiles to better understand what the campus experience is like

How to search and filter

From the homepage or the Niche App, selecting Colleges will take students to a list of institutions. After landing on a search results page, they can apply any number of filters to the results using the search bar on the left. After applying a filter, the page will reload with updated results. Filter by:

  • College Type
  • General Area of Study
  • Specific Major
  • Online Degree Offerings
  • Net Price Range
  • Study Body Size
  • Specialty Designations
  • Test Score Ranges
  • Admission Processes
  • Selectivity
  • Religious Affiliation
  • Median Starting Salary After Graduation

One valuable research and list-building tool Niche offers is the Your Best Fit tool. Your Best Fit is a tool that uses sliders for various aspects of a college (e.g. academics, professors, diversity, etc.) to assign individualized importance and get results based on each student’s own priorities. From a search results page in colleges, click the “Your Best Fit” link just above the results list and below the header image. Use the sliders to specify priorities and click “Get Results.” The tool will build a new search results page with results tailored to those priorities. Filters can be applied to these results just like any other search. To change priorities, click the “Edit Preferences” button just above the results list.

Your Best Fit Tool with sliders to help students create a custom list of colleges based on their preferences.
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For students who are unsure and want to discover new colleges, Niche also has a College Quiz that helps them think about what they might want and start to build a list. Another highly segmented tool is the College Major Search. If students know exactly what major they want they can find colleges that offer that program and then further filter as they would above.

How to navigate a college profile

Screen capture of a Niche profile for University of Virginia.
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The college profile provides a wealth of information collected from national databases and combined with current student feedback and reviews. At the top of a profile, students can select to review the undergraduate or graduate profile for the university. For students pursuing degrees that are 2-4, 4+1, or 0-6 such as some pharmacy and physical therapy programs for example they will want to review both portions. At the top are high-level scorecard data and section links on the left that will stay there as you scroll down to aid navigation. Here is some of what you will find in each section:


  • Retention rates
  • Graduation rate
  • Research funding
  • Class size ranges
  • Majors offered
  • Faculty demographics
  • Student feedback about professors


  • Student scatterplot data
  • Acceptance rate
  • Standardized test score ranges
  • Application deadlines
  • Applications accepted
  • Admission material requirements
  • Student feedback about the admissions process

Tuition, Cost, and Aid

  • Net price
  • Loan data
  • Tuition and fees
  • Financial aid awarded

Campus Life

  • Campus housing information
  • Campus dining information
  • Campus safety
  • Athletics
  • Clubs and activities
  • Fine and performing arts
  • Campus party scene
  • Greek life
  • Student feedback about all aspects of campus life


  • Student body demographics
  • Student feedback about diversity
  • Student feedback about political engagement on campus

After Graduation

  • Alumni median earnings
  • Job placement
  • Student debt
  • Student feedback about career preparation

Student Reviews

How to compare colleges

Niche Compare Tool showing differences between Indiana University, Purdue University, University of Michigan, and The Ohio State University.
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Niche provides a tool for students to compare colleges side-by-side. Up to four colleges can be added to the Compare Tool, with links back to their full profiles and the ability to directly add colleges to their list. 

How to add colleges to a list, track progress, and share lists

As students find colleges that they want to consider they can start tracking them in their list. If they lose interest they can later remove the college. Adding a college is easy, once they find a college they want to keep on their list they can either press the green heart button on a profile or use the search bar in their list. 

A list of colleges on Niche with student tracking their search status.
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Furthermore, they can keep track of their enrollment status on the list. They can note that they are:

  • Researching
  • Scheduled a tour
  • Visited campus
  • Started application
  • Applied
  • Accepted
  • Enrolled

From the list, they can schedule a visit or start their application, or if they aren’t ready yet there are direct links to the college’s Niche profile and student reviews. This can help students keep on top of their applications and provide feedback to streamline your meetings with them when used with the Share Your List feature. Students can create a link that will provide access to view their list that they can share with you or their parents and keep everyone updated about their application statuses and considerations. These views are viewable only, and can’t be edited by anyone else who has the link. Being able to quickly review their progress before a meeting can help streamline college counseling sessions to focus on more important questions and concerns. They are also able to revoke access at any time by switching their list to Private mode. 

Screen capture of the ability to share a student list of colleges with others.
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A view of shared colleges that a student is considering.
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Guidance Tools for Students

A student profile also includes a helpful checklist to guide students to important actions during their college search, as well as some that are designed to help show them different parts of Niche and how to use the platform effectively. 

Student guidance tasks to help them prepare for college.
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How to find scholarships

In addition to college search and support features, Niche also provides scholarships. Some of these scholarships are provided by Niche and others through partnerships. Scholarships are updated frequently, so returning often to find those that are a good fit is recommended. 

Prior to coming to Niche in 2019 Will served 9 years at Manchester University in roles as an Admissions Counselor, Associate Director for Admissions Operations, Social Media Coordinator, and ultimately as Digital Strategist. Will surfaces tactical insights from user behavior and surveys to help higher ed build recruitment strategies. In addition to the Enrollment Insights blog, webinars, and podcast; Will is a frequent conference speaker and podcast guest. He has presented at NACAC, AACRAO-SEM, AMA Higher Ed, CASE V, EduWeb, and EMA. Will's work has been featured in Forbes, Inside Higher Ed, CNBC, CNN, the LA Times, and The New York Times among other outlets.