College Search – Finding the Right “Fit”

Published by Wendy Nelson on

ChecklistHigh school students in the college search process are encouraged to find the college that is the best “fit.”  This is definitely important, but I believe “fit” is not a single concept.  There are many different types of “fit” that must be considered.

As a parent going through the college search process with your college-bound kid, encourage your student to consider all of the following types of fit.

Academic Fit

  • Does the school have academic programs that will challenge your student and cover what he/she wants to study?
  • Is an honors program or honors college something that would be a good fit for your student, keeping in mind that many classes will be taken with a wider non-honors student base?
  • Would your student be better suited for a very highly selective school where all classes are more like an “honors” curriculum?
  • If your student is undecided on a major, does the school have a good program to help students explore different content areas and ultimately select the right major for them?
  • Look at the mid-range GPA and ACT or SAT scores for the students.  Where does your student fit compared to that range?  Is he/she comfortable with that position (lowest 25%, mid 50% or highest 25%)?

Social Fit

  • How will your student fit in with the other students on campus?
  • Is the school large enough that there are different groupings of like-minded students and the school seems to have something for everyone?
  • If it is a small school, is the predominant “feel” including culture, attitude, and political leaning a good match for your student?
  • Consider the socioeconomic background of the student body.  Will your student fit in or feel out of place?
  • Are there clubs and activities that your student is interested in or would he/she be giving up some of his/her favorites to attend there?

Spiritual Fit

  • Does the school have a particular religious leaning?  If so, is that a good match for your student?
  • Are there opportunities available on campus for your student to worship or join groups that fit his/her spiritual needs (or not feel pressured if he/she doesn’t want this aspect)?

Physical Fit

  • Is the campus physically appealing to your student?
  • Is the surrounding neighborhood appealing or does it feel unsafe?
  • Is your student comfortable with the campus size or does it seem too small or too large?
  • What about the dorms?  Do they seem livable?
  • How long are students required to live on campus and does that meet with your expectations?
  • Do the classrooms seem conducive to learning or are they old and outdated?
  • Are there good places on campus to hang out, to study, to work out, etc?
  • Does it seem like the school has spent too much money trying to visually attract students with the most modern high-tech facilities?  Sometimes that can be a sign that “show” is more important to the school than “substance?”

Emotional Fit

  • How does your student feel about the school – it may take an overnight visit to gauge this.
  • Does it feel like a place he or she belongs?
  • Can your student picture himself/herself living there for four years?

Financial Fit

  • Parents, this is where you really get to weigh in – Is the school a good financial fit for your family?
  • If the sticker price is not affordable, is your student eligible for some great merit scholarships to bring down the cost?
  • What about need-based aid?  Are you relying on a school to provide this?  If so, have you estimated how much the school may offer?

When you are assessing college fit during the college search process, make sure you are considering all of the different kinds of fit and not just whether your student “feels” good about a school.  There are so many other pieces to consider in order to make sure it is the right place to spend the next four years.