College Fit – Sometimes You Just Know

Published by Wendy Nelson on

At this point during senior year of high school, college-bound kids and their parents are focused on college fit.  A lot of kids ask, “How will I know what college is right for me?”  A lot of parents stress out when their students are still looking at several colleges without seeming to have an idea of what they want.  In my last post, The Importance of the “In Depth” College Visit, I talked about taking my daughter to one of her top choice schools for a customized in-depth visit.  I really do believe that such a college  visit can be key to figuring out college fit and I will share what happened with my daughter’s visit as an example.

Going into the visit, this was my daughter’s second-choice school.  She was invited to visit to check out the major she was applying to.  She had already been to the school twice, but had been interested in different majors at the time.

At this point in her college search process, I wasn’t nervous at all because she already had it narrowed down to two schools and was highly favoring her top-choice school.  I was relishing the fact that she was smooth-sailing through her college search.  The school we were visiting, her second choice, had a program for the major she was planning to study.  The top-choice school didn’t really, but had a way to get the same end result with an extra 15-months of graduate work.

Sometimes You Just Know

The last part of our visit involved sitting in on a class in the program.  This was what clinched it for me and I was anxious to hear what my daughter thought.  The professor was great.  He had a way of engaging the students and drawing them out that even made me want to be in the class.  It was a small, discussion based class and my daughter was able to participate along with the 13 students in the class.  After class, the professor took time to talk to my daughter more and give her advice about making her final choice – honest and practical advice.

I couldn’t wait to hear her thought on the visit, but, taking a queue from my experience with my oldest daughter, I didn’t ask.  I patiently waited for her to bring it up.  It turned out she loved the experience as much as I did and felt that this was the right college fit for her.

College Fit – What to Look For

These are the signs to watch for to assess when your student has found a good college fit:

  • A feeling that he or she “belongs” there – It could be the campus overall, a particular academic program, or a group of students that triggers this feeling
  • A strong program in the field of interest – Maybe your student doesn’t know what he or she wants to study.  In that case, look for the college to have a strong methodology for helping students decide on a major.
  • A sense that he or she is important and not just a number – If a school takes the time to contact a student to extend a personalized visit, this is a great sign.  If all your student gets from the school, even after applying, is generic emails, this is not a good sign.
  • Good follow through – Do the department heads or admissions reps get back to your student when he or she emails with questions?  Do they seem ready and willing to help?
  • A safe place – Does your student feel comfortable walking in and around campus?
  • General excitement about the school – The more enthusiasm your student shows for a particular college, the more likely that it will be a good fit, at least initially.

Soon after my daughter’s visit, she said she was no longer interested in her former top-choice school.  She felt that the school we visited was the right school for her.

It’s not always this easy.  I know it wasn’t with my oldest daughter.  It may seen agonizing as your student takes time to make a decision, and you may need to wait for acceptance letters to come in to even narrow down the choices to a “top two.”

My advice to parents is, don’t get too stressed out about this.  Your student will make a good decision.  The easiest way you can help is by taking him or her to campus for in-depth visits to help answer the things I listed above.  Then give your student time and space to figure it out.