Fit is a word you hear a lot in college admissions. A good college fit is a school that you will:
- find success academically,
- be engaged and involved in the community so you want to return each year,
- gain the skills you will need for gainful employment,
- be affordable so you are able to complete the degree
- graduate from.
There is no one school that is a great fit for every student (or this whole process would be a lot simpler!) and there is not just one great fit for each student. In a previous job, I was able to bring students on multiple college visits per year. We visited a wide range of schools and we never went to a school that all students loved or all students disliked. I always enjoyed getting back on the bus and hearing what they thought and noticed.
Colleges are a business (this is a point being made quite often right now as colleges struggle with the pandemic) and they are well aware that admitting students who will be successful academically (so they don’t flunk out and stop paying tuition) and happy (so they keep coming back and continue paying tuition) is the key to their ongoing existence.
After 20 years in this career, I have lots of stories and lessons learned from my students! I could go on and on! Early in my career, a valedictorian was sharing with me how much grief she was getting from classmates and community because she had been accepted at some top ranked schools but was choosing to go to a school not as high on those lists. With complete and utter confidence, she told me, “I walked on to that campus and I knew I was home.” That was a good lesson in true fit for me.
Another student I worked with would no doubt be successful in any school but it was so clear to me, and her and her parents, that this one school was above and beyond the best fit. Nevermind that it is one of the most difficult schools in the country to be admitted to- it didn’t matter- it was just the best fit! Between her application and all the letters teachers and I wrote to tell the school why, they saw it too and she’s a successful graduate of that school today.
Most students will be admitted and will thrive at several schools. Think about life after admission. Walking around campus, going to class, meeting new friends- once you are on that campus, admissions no longer matters. It matters that you are being challenged in class, developing skills, gaining knowledge and engaged in your community. What do you need around you for this to happen? Opportunities to do research? Being part of a team or club with others who love it like you do? The hustle and bustle of a city setting? A pretty campus that you enjoy walking across and playing frisbee in the quad?
Beyond feeling comfortable and at home on a campus, focus on how you will gain the skills to be successful after college. What opportunities exist on campus- research labs, professors as mentors, independent study, career services and internships?
Affordability is also part of the fit and I often wish it wasn’t. If going to a certain school will mean high debt and stress for a decade after graduation, is it the best fit? I can’t answer that I can be honest and realistic about what that will look like. I thoroughly enjoy helping students find their “right fit” and so much more goes into it than looking at a transcript, test scores and activities.
The ultimate goal of being admitted and then enrolled in college is graduating from that college. It’s easy to get caught up in the admissions process but a good fit is the ultimate goal and measure of success. Know yourself, know the whole school and follow your own path.