According to a survey conducted by Noodle Education, one of the issues parents are most concerned about is that their college student find a college that is the right “fit.” 72.5% of parents ranked this as highly important to them.
Students, too, want to find a college that is the right fit. Guidance counselors encourage students to look for the college that is the right fit. Colleges claim to be the right fit for your student.
So what exactly does it mean to say that a college is the right “fit” for a student, and how can a student find that fit?
The quality of fit in a college is a complex concept. It is often difficult to define or describe, but students often know it when they find it.
Finding a college that is the right fit may depend on many variables, but it means finding a place that feels “like home.” It means finding a school that feels comfortable to the student both academically and socially. In terms of academics, your student might consider available majors, degree of challenge in the curriculum, class size, etc. Socially, your student should think about activities offered, opportunity to pursue interests, opportunity for your student to be who they are in terms of race, gender, politics, religion, sexual orientation. Your student might also consider characteristics such as school size, urban vs. rural setting, Greek life, and campus culture.
Finding the right fit
Just like finding a mate, finding a good match in a school means not only knowing about the school, but also means knowing about yourself. Help your student think carefully about who they are, what type of environment will help them thrive, what they need and want from their education. If your student isn’t honest about who they are and why they are motivated to go to college, they will have difficulty finding the right match.
Finding the right fit or feel in a school may be a little like finding a mate through an online dating site. Attempts to match personalities sometimes work – and sometimes don’t. A school may seem just right on paper or online, but that first date may fall flat. Students need to visit a school to truly judge the fit and feel the “chemistry.” Just like true love, it’s hard to find, but you usually know when you’ve found it. But also like true love, it may take time and some work to develop a relationship.
Just as you might try an outfit on in the store before buying it – to see if it fits – your student should try on the school as much as possible. What does this mean?
- Read everything the school sends in the mail – electronic or hard copy.
- Spend lots of time on the school website – not only looking for specific information, but for the feel of the school and what might be said between the lines.
- Visit the campus – multiple times if necessary.
- Sit in on classes.
- Talk to students and faculty members.
- Talk to alumni.
- Eat the food in the cafeteria.
- If the school offers such a program, ask to stay overnight in a residence hall.
- Sit in various snack bars and/or lounges around campus.
- Spend some time in the library.
- Read the school newspaper, listen to the radio station, watch the school’s Youtube or TV station.
- Attend an Accepted or Admitted Student event.
- Walk around the neighborhoods around the school.
- Ask a lot of questions about all sorts of things.
Essentially, your student is trying to see if it feels natural and right to be part of the life at the college. Although this is a difficult concept to define, it is often amazing how clear your student may be about whether or not it feels right.
Trust the chemistry
Your student, and you, need to do your homework about many college factors. You’ll need to make sure you can afford the school. Your student will need to make sure that the school offers their intended major, has activities available that interest them, is the social environment they will enjoy. They’ll need to be sure that they can be, or has been, accepted.
But after all of the logical questions have been asked and answered, you’ll need to trust your student’s instinct or “gut feeling.” There is probably no perfect match, but if your student feels the match is right, they’ll be invested in their college experience and work to make it successful. Feeling that the match is right, may make the difference between whether or not your student is happy and has a rewarding four years.