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

I am a Student
I am an Adult

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.

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

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 websites. 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

These are schools that might be difficult to get into, but that you are really drawn to.

Two or three “match” schools

These are 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

These are schools that you are very confident you would get admitted into so you have something to fall back on.

When exploring a post-secondary degree, be sure to consider all of your options, and access available resources in order to make an informed decision. To help you plan for balancing school, personal life and possibly work, consider the demands of being a student. Make sure to think about class, assignments and the commute.

As you begin making a plan, here are some questions to consider:

How long has it been since you were in school?

The District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund provides free support for those looking to earn a GED and enter a career. Among other services, they offer free courses in math, language arts, and social studies to help you prepare for the GED while building computer literacy skills. Find out more here.

Do you have employment obligations? What is your schedule like?

You might consider a program that offers evening classes, accelerated programs or online courses. See the Finding the Right Fit page for more information on these options.

If you have children, do you have child care?

Contact Child Care Information Services of Philadelphia to see if you qualify for subsidized care.

Do you have regular access to a computer and the internet?

This will be necessary in order to research and complete assignments, take online classes, and connect with professors and classmates. If you don’t have home access, consider options at KEYSPOT sites, a public library, or the home of relatives, and friends.

As an adult learner, you have many options to consider when searching for your next learning opportunity. Be sure you are choosing the perfect fit for you.

Some of the options include: online; in-class; hybrids (both in-class and online components); and accelerated programs (offering courses that last about eight weeks instead of fourteen but deliver the same amount of learning).

Not sure about online courses? Many adults do well in accelerated and online degree completion programs, but need a gentle introduction. Graduate! Philadelphia offers workshops to ease adults into online learning.  

Call 215-498-1504 or email to ask about the next workshop.

To find the right college fit, you can visit College Board.

Types of Degrees

Bachelor’s Degree

Generally, four-year colleges offer this degree and it is designed to take four years, but can take longer. Students typically graduate with a B.A. (Bachelor of Arts), B.S. (Bachelor of Science) or B.F.A. (Bachelor of Fine Arts).

Associate Degree

Generally, community colleges, and some four-year schools offer this degree. It typically takes two years to obtain a credential, but can take longer. There are many options for areas of study, and you can study something very broad or very specific.


Two- and four-year colleges, as well as certificate-only schools offer this credential. The amount of time to obtain a certificate can range from two weeks to two years, with an average of six months to one year. Certificates are specialized and technical. The purpose of a certificate is to find work, or build a career in a specific area.

Local Resources

Here are some local resources to help you find the best fit, make your plan and finance your degree:

Educational Opportunity Center

A drop-in center exclusively for adults, Educational Opportunity Center can help guide you through the college-going process. Call (215) 246-3505 for more information.

Graduate! Philadelphia

Graduate!Philadelphia works with adults who already have some college credit. An advisor can help you track down your existing credits and implement a plan to complete your degree, as well as providing guidance as you earn your degree. Browse the site to get started with your college search, or set up an appointment by calling 215-498-1504, or dropping into their offices

Graduate!Philadelphia also partners with Philadelphia-area colleges that have excellent support systems and degree options for adult students, such as accelerated programs, and flexible schedules.

Schools for Adults

Below is a list of local schools that are sensitive to the needs of the adult student. Many of these schools partner with Graduate!Philadelphia.

Ready to Learn about Financial Aid?

There are many resources available to help you pay for and reduce the cost of college.

Looking for a college preparatory program?

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