North Carolina

North Carolina College Search

Use the filter on the left to narrow down colleges. Scroll right using the table under the map to find more detailed data on selectivity, affordability, graduation, student demographics, and on academic programs.

Students often ask three common questions about college:

1.Can I afford college?

Yes you can! NC is one of the most affordable states in the country for college!

At 2-year Colleges

Tuition and fees are under $3000 per year at NC community colleges. A full Pell grant is $6,495 for the 2021-2022 school year. This will cover not only your tuition and fees, but also gas, food, and books!

At 4-year Colleges

Total cost of attendance (including is approximately $18,500 per year at NC public universities.

Affording 4-year college is a matter of adding up several sources of grants, scholarships, and loans to make it work.

$6,495 Pell Grant


$3500 NC State Grant


$3000 Institutional Scholarship (from the university that you are attending)


$5,500 Federal Loan

= $18,495

A low-income college student can attend college in NC without paying anything out of pocket!

Students Have 4 Affordable College Options to getting their Bachelor's Degree at a 4-year college

1.Straight to 4-year Residential Experience

A low-income college student can attend college in NC without paying anything out of pocket!

You will end up with approximately $25K in debt at the end of four years.

2.4-year Commuting Experience

Room & board (living on campus) makes up more than half the cost of college. If there is a within commuting distance to your house you can save money by living at home and attending classes.

The experience won't be quite the same, but it can work for some.

3.Community College to Transfer

Students can also start at one of 59 NC community colleges and transfer to a 4-year college after 1 or 2 years.

By transferring you can avoid taking out loans for the 1-2 years that you are at community college, and lessen your debt burden to $10-15K.

4.NC Promise

4 NC Public Universities offer $1000 per year tuition, making them great deals for NC students!

Elizabeth City State University

UNC Pembroke

Western Carolina

Fayetteville State University (new in fall 2022)

The bottom line is that affording college may not always be easy, but you can do it!

2. Where can I get accepted?

More good news! Some type of college or post-high school training is for everyone!

First, all community colleges are open access. That means anyone can attend as long as you have a high school diploma or GED!

There are three minimum requirements for NC public, 4-year colleges:

  1. HS Course requirements

  • 15 core courses including:

    • 4 Math credits (including 1 past Algebra II)

    • 4 English credits

    • 3 Science credits (including a lab)

    • 2 Social Studies credits

    • 2 credits in the same foreign language

  1. A 2.5 weighted GPA (calculated using all of the courses you take in high school.

  1. A 1010 SAT or 19 ACT score (waived for fall 2022).

Keep in mind that these are minimum requirements. They won't get you at all 16 schools, but they may get you in at a few of the less selective universities.

Different 4-year colleges have different standards of admission. Some are easier to be accepted to, while others are more difficult.

This selectivity chart gives you an idea of what GPA and test scores (in non-Covid years) you should roughly shoot for to be accepted at a 4-year public or private university in North Carolina.

Copy NC Selectivity Chart-All

3. What will I study and where will it lead?

Education beyond high school is for everyone. But there are different options.

1.Bachelor's Degree

Time to Degree

4 total years

2 Routes

  1. Start at Community College, then Transfer after taking your General Education courses for 1-2 years

  2. Starting directly at a 4-year College

Course Breakdown

2 years of General Education courses


2 years of Major courses


Academic, theoretical. A continuation of your math, science, English, social studies classes from high school.

2.Associate of Applied Science Degree

Time to Degree

2 total years

1 Route

Only offered by Community Colleges (in NC)

Course Breakdown

1/2 year (1 semester) of General Education courses


1.5 years of Major courses


More applied. Industry-specific skills. More focus on your area of study.

3.Certificate or Diploma of Applied Science


1 semester (all major courses)


1 year (all major courses)

1 Route

Only offered by Community Colleges


A condensed version of the Assoc of Applied Sciences that provides just the core courses. Often several certificates/diplomas are combined within an associates degree.

Two aspects of your education influences your earnings: your degree and your major

The data consistently show that every level of education provides greater earnings for the average person.

Money isn't the most important thing, but different fields of study do lead to jobs with different salaries.

Which colleges offer which majors?

Filter to search both public & private colleges by selectivity, location, size diversity, & major!

NC College Search

Great, you decided that you want to continue to build skills and experiences through higher education, so what do you need to know?

The Application Process

So how does someone actually apply?

Application Materials for a 4-year college

Here's what you will need:

1. Application via the the Common or Coalition Applications, CFNC, or applications on individual college websites.

2. HS Transcript (submitted via CFNC or by your counselor)

3. Essays (not required for every college)

4. SAT/ACT scores (waived for most colleges for 2022-2023)

5. Resume or list of extracurricular activities

6. 1-3 Letters of Recommendation (also not required for all)

7. Application Fee Waivers (if you qualify for free/reduced lunch)

How to Apply to a public, NC 2-year College

1. Application via CFNC

2. HS Transcript (submitted via CFNC)

That's it! It's free and it's easy! It should only take you 30 minutes once you have your CFNC account set up. Also have your student id, social security and drivers license numbers handy.

Fee Waivers

If you qualify for free or reduced-price lunch you can also qualify for fee waivers for:

  1. Taking the SAT/ACT

  2. Applying to many colleges.

These fee waivers are available to download & print (and be signed by your counselor) at your SAT account or from NACAC. For Common or Coalition application schools no printed fee waiver is necessary. Simply check that you qualify for a fee waiver and your counselor will have to confirm it. However for applications via CFNC or on individual college websites, you will have to either mail, email, or fax the signed fee waiver forms to the university. Check with the university on its fee waiver process.


Apply early if you can! It's almost always to your advantage to apply before the early deadline, even at your safety colleges, in order to qualify for maximum scholarships & financial aid!

NC Public University Application Info - FALL 2021
Credit Sydney Russell, Carolina College Advising Corps
NC application-deadlines_2021-2022-1.pdf

Downloaded at the bottom of this page:

Staying Organized

One of the most difficult parts of applying to college is staying organized. There are a lot of passwords to manage, deadlines to keep track of, forms to fill out. Use this organizer tool to stay organized. Share it with your guidance counselor or college adviser to help them help you!

Complete College Search (for students)

Creating A College List

How many colleges to apply to? Which ones? Where to start?

For 4-year college applicants

A Balanced College List Consists of:

3-10 colleges

At least 1 safety, target, and reach college.

Make sure that your safety & target colleges are affordable for you!

Offers your major

You have visited and feel comfortable on campus!

More resources on which colleges to apply to

Read our Creating a College List page for more detailed information!

Our Complete College Search App & Compare Colleges page will help you compare colleges outside of NC.

CFNC's college search tool

Big Future is another popular resource.

For those on the fence!

Even if you aren't sure that you want to start at a 4-year college, my advice is to apply to at least 1 safety 4-year college to give yourself options.

Deadlines come around in the fall and winter, but you don't need to decide until May 1st. A lot can change and its worth the time to put in a couple of applications to have the choice in the spring.

For 2-year college applicants

You may not need a list, but you need a plan!

Some areas have several 2-year colleges nearby, which do you want to attend?

What program/degree do you wan to do?

You still need to visit and tour the specific program(s) that you are interested in!

Applying for Financial Aid & Scholarships

4 (kind of) simple steps

1. Know your EFC early in the process

Your EFC is your Expected Family Contribution. It's a number that the federal government calculates to estimate how much your family can pay for college and how big of a Pell Grant you will qualify for.

How do you know it? Do the FAFSA Forecaster. It will give you your EFC in small print at the end of the form. Write that number down and share it with your guidance counselor or college adviser.

Calculating your Pell Grant:

The Maximum Pell Grant = $6,495

If your EFC = 0, then you will get the full $6,495 Pell Grant.

If your EFC = $3000, you will get $6495-$3000 = $3,495 Pell Grant

If your EFC is above $6,000, then you won't get a Pell Grant, but you may still qualify for state grants or other financial aid.

2. Complete the FAFSA

FAFSA website:

See our FAFSA Guide

The FAFSA opens on Oct 1 every year.

The NC deadline is March 1 in order to be guaranteed state financial aid. I recommend trying to complete it by December if possible.

2 common questions are:

1. What years tax returns should you use?

  • The 2022–23 FAFSA form asks for 2020 tax information.

  • The 2021–22 FAFSA form asks for 2019 tax information.

2. Who should fill it out if your parents are divorced or you don't live with your biological parents. Short answer is, its the parent who you spend more time living with.

3. Complete the CSS Profile

These 5 NC universities use the CSS Profile: Davidson, Duke, Elon, UNC Chapel Hill, & Wake Forest.

CSS Profile Website:

If you aren't planning to apply to any of these colleges then don't worry about the CSS!

The RDS is a central system for the state of North Carolina to award in-state residency for college students.

All students must complete RDS to get in-state tuition at a pubic university or community college in North Carolina.

RDS Website:

North Carolina Promise

Through NC Promise, tuition drops to $500 per semester ($1000 per year) at three UNC system institutions – Elizabeth City State University, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Western Carolina University – beginning in Fall 2018, and at Fayetteville State University beginning in Fall 2022.

Students still pay fees & room & board, but in-state students still qualify for their typical state & federal financial aid, making these schools a great deal for NC students.

Furthermore, tuition for DACA/undocumented students is $5000 per semester ($10,000) per year. It's not cheap, but if one of these schools is within commuting distance, it may end up affordable.

Information for Undocumented/DACA Students

  • North Carolina does not provide undocumented or DACA students with in-state tuition or any state financial aid. Undoc/DACA students can attend any university, but they will have to pay out of state tuition without financial aid.

  • However, DACA students who get sponsored by a NC business can pay in-state tuition at North Carolina community colleges.

    • Usually this is how it works: students explain the situation and find an employer who is willing to sponsor them. Then they find out the exact amount owed for the upcoming semester and write a check to their employer for the in-state tuition amount. The employer then gives the student a check for the same in-state tuition amount and the student turns in the check and usually some kind of form to the budget office of the community college. This process is repeated every semester.

  • Starting Fall 2018, DACA & undocumented students are eligible for the reduced out-of-state tuition at 3 NC Public Universities through the College Promise Program.

    • NC Promise: Out-of-state tuition will be $5,000 per year at Western Carolina, UNC Pembroke, and Elizabeth City State University.

  • See the DACA/Undocumented page for scholarship opportunities including the Golden Door Scholarship and the Dream.US Opportunity Scholarship.

  • Financial Aid for Undocumented/DACA students

    • If the student is undocumented or has DACA then they typically do not need to fill out the FAFSA form.

    • If the student is a US Citizen, but their parents are undocumented, then they do qualify for full financial aid and they do need to fill out the FAFSA. They put all 0s where the FAFSA asks for the parents social security number (do not use the parents' tax ID!). Then they will need to print out the form, sign it, and mail it to the FAFSA office (address is provided on the website).

Scholarships and Additional Financial Aid Information (mainly for counselors)

State Aid Programs

For State Aid Programs applicants must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), listing at least one qualifying North Carolina institution. Consideration for the grant is automatic once the FAFSA is filed. No deadline has been established; however, applicants should meet financial aid application deadlines established by their institutions (Mar 2 for UNC universities).

Bottom line is that students don't need to do anything extra to qualify for NC state financial aid other than submit the FAFSA by the deadline (Mar 2 for UNC schools)!

NC Promise Program (see below)

North Carolina Need Based Scholarships

  • For NC students attending school in NC.

  • Amount: $2,000 to $7,100

North Carolina Education Lottery Scholarships

  • For NC students attending School in NC.

  • Amount: $315 to $3,130

University of North Carolina Need-Based Grant

  • For NC students at NC public universities.

  • Award amounts vary from $500 to $4,200 in 2018-19. Application Procedure: Applicants must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), listing at least one qualifying private North Carolina institution. Consideration for the grant is automatic once the FAFSA is filed. No deadline has been established; however, applicants should meet financial aid application deadlines established by their institutions.

UNC Campus Scholarship Program

  • Value varies. Each campus determines eligibility and recipients based on approved criteria established by the institution.

Grants and Scholarships

For Scholarships, students must complete separate applications.

Important note on scholarships: For low-income students, most of your financial aid will come from need-based financial aid from the university. North Carolina has one of the most affordable public university systems in the country, and any public university will likely be affordable for nearly all low-income students. Don't let cost stop you from applying!

For private universities, it's important to apply to colleges that will be affordable for you without any merit scholarships. However, always look on the website of each university for merit scholarship opportunities. Most, you will be automatically considered for, but some require extra applications!

Full Grants/Scholarships guide provided by the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC)

2017 Marian Drane Graham Scholars Program

A six-week immersive and experiential summer program designed to provide students the opportunity to develop leadership skills and gain a better understanding of key issues facing public higher education. The program is open to rising juniors and seniors attending one of the sixteen constituent institutions of higher education in the University of North Carolina.

Cheatham-White Merit Scholarship

Full-ride scholarship for students with a minimum 4.0 GPA & 1280 SAT/28 ACT at NC A&T or NC Central University.

CFNC Scholarship Search

Search for over 50 scholarships through CFNC.

Winston Salem Foundation Scholarships (deadline Apr 1)

One application qualifies students for multiple scholarships through the WS Foundation.

The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina

Multiple scholarships for students in the Western Counties of North Carolina.

Merit & Institutional Scholarships at North Carolina's Top Universities

UNC Chapel Hill

Carolina Covenant

No separate application! Eligible students whose family income falls at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines (about $48,600 for a family of four) can graduate from Carolina without having to borrow a penny – 100% of their demonstrated need is met through grants and federal work study.

Carolina Scholarships (full list)

Morehead Cain

Must be nominated by your NC high school. Apply to the Scholarship & to UNC.

NC State

NC State scholarships (full list)

    • Pack Assist- one application portal for all NCSU scholarships

Park Scholarship

Must be nominated by your NC high school. Apply to the scholarship & to NCSU.

Goodnight Scholarship

For students with family incomes under $110K, planning to study STEM. Must apply early action to NCSU!

Other UNC System Universiteis

UNC Chalotte

Niner Scholarship Portal- apply for hundreds of scholarships with one app!

Levine Scholarship

20 students chosen every year! Must be nominated by your high school!


Cheatham-White Merit Scholarship

Full-ride scholarship for students with a minimum 4.0 GPA & 1280 SAT/28 ACT at NC A&T or NC Central University.

Davidson College

Davidson provides scholarships to only 3% of incoming students, but with generous financial aid, it is affordable to most students who are accepted.

Davidson Scholarships (full list)

Duke University

Duke provides scholarships to only 3% of incoming students, but with generous financial aid, it is affordable to most students who are accepted.

Duke Merit Scholarships (full list)

Wake Forest

Wake Forest provides scholarships to only 3% of incoming students, but with generous financial aid, it is affordable to most students who are accepted.

Wake Forest Merit Scholarships (full list)

Other Resources & Links for Counselors