Find The Right Fit

Finding the “right” college or post-high school educational opportunity is all about finding the right fit for you. Here are somethings to consider as you begin your search.

Academic Fit

Academic Profile — Research the GPA and average SAT/ACT scores for incoming first year students to see if your profile fits the general profile of admitted students.

Type of College — Do you want attend a two-year college, or a four-year college? Do you want to attend a private school or a public state school? To learn more about the types of colleges that exist, check out Big Future’s guide, or the Step Up to College Guide.

Majors — What interests do you want to pursue? Have you started thinking about your career goal and path? Every school offers a different variety of majors. Do the schools’ academic programs match your interests?

Class Size – Do you learn better in a small classroom setting or a big lecture hall. Some schools can have class sizes as small as just 10 students per class while others may have hundreds of student in a class. Figure out what style would work best for you.

Financial Fit

Will you have the resources to attend this school? Does the school offer need and/or merit based aid? If it’s a state school, do you qualify for in-state tuition rates? The sticker price of a college is usually different than what you will actually end up paying.

Social Fit

Location — Do you want to be close to home? Do you want to live somewhere new? Do you want to live on a rural, suburban, or urban campus? When making this decision, consider factors like the availability of public transportation, the need for a private vehicle, and the cost of travel — whether it’s airfare, train or bus fare.

Campus Life — Do you want a college with great sports teams and lots of spirit, one that prides itself on an intellectual atmosphere, a small liberal arts school, or a large student body and campus? Do you want to be around lots of different kinds of people or people with similar experiences and interests?

Your College Search

Once you have a good idea about the type of school you want to go to, you should start looking at schools individually. All colleges have websites that offer information to prospective students. Here, you can learn about the campus, explore the school’s academics, and learn about application requirements and deadlines. Don’t just visit the admissions tab, take some time to explore information about campus clubs and organizations, study abroad options, academic resources and research opportunities — there’s a lot to discover about each and every college.

It is recommended that students apply to between four and seven colleges. It’s important to be realistic about your academic profile and how well it matches the school’s admitted student profiles. Acceptance rates and profiles are usually listed on college’s website. Your high school counselor can usually give you some additional insight as to whether a school may be a good fit.

Consider applying to…

  • One or two “reach” schools
    Schools that might be difficult to get into, but that you are really drawn to
  • Two or three “match” schools
    Schools that fit with your academic profile, financial aid need and social fit (size, culture, location). In other words, schools where, though acceptance is not guaranteed, you feel confident about your chances
  • One of two “safety” schools
    Schools that you are very confident you would get admitted into so you have something to fall back on

Applying to a variety of schools not only increases your chances of being accepted, but also opens up different financial aid options. All schools award financial aid differently, so the more schools you apply to, the more packages you’ll be able to choose from. There is a potential downside to applying to multiple colleges or universities: the costs or fees associated with submitting applications. Talk to your guidance counselor, as these fees can usually be waived if you have financial need.

Online resources for narrowing your search:

  • College Navigator has information on academics, financial aid and graduation rates.
  • The College Board’s “Big Future” website has college profiles and search tools.
  • College Affordability and Transparency Center’s College Scorecard provides information on a college’s affordability, enrollment size, and programs and majors.
  • Unigo offers student-generated reviews and guides about colleges.