Fit is the most important thing to keep in mind as you think about colleges. It is more important than "name", more important than ranking, and more important than average SAT scores. There are many variables to consider when looking at fit, and keep in mind that there may be several colleges that are all a good fit for you.
Three big things to consider regarding fit:
- Academic Fit - Since each college has different requirements, you want to look for a college that "fits" well academically. "Academic fit" means being challenged and being able to meet that challenge. It also includes the balance between academics and other activities, and should be the number one criterion in the selection process.
- Environmental Fit - Choosing a college is very much like looking for a new "home," as the campus selected will be home for the next four years. Where will you feel comfortable: a city, or a suburb? What type of people are you looking to meet? Are these students and professors people that you can easily relate to? Are there extracurricular opportunities available that you are interested in? What about the churches in the area?
- Affordability Fit - While the cost of a college education cannot be dismissed as a factor in the selection process, you are encouraged to separate financial issues from academic and social factors. Before dismissing a college or university from consideration, you should gather information about the availability of all forms of financial aid (grants, loans, work study, and scholarship).
Within those broad categories, there are a number of basic things to consider. They include:
- Admission Requirements - What tests are required (SAT I, SAT II, ACT and/or AP)? What are the deadlines for applications to be filed?
- Academic Programs - Will your academic needs be met? What courses are offered in the major you are considering? Are programs diverse/specific enough to meet your needs?
- Degree Requirements - What courses will be required in order to get a degree? For specialized programs such as engineering or nursing, does acceptance to the university guarantee acceptance into the specific program you want?
- Financial Aid - What sources of financial aid are available, including College Work-Study, SEOG (Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants), guaranteed student loans, institutional and departmental scholarships?
- Living Facilities - What accommodations are available: houses, dormitories, single rooms, doubles, and/or triples? Are dorms available after freshmen year?
- Student Services - What counseling services are available? What health care is available? Are there career planning services? Does the school have a placement service for graduating students? What support services do they provide for students with special needs?
Special Programs - What recreational possibilities are available? Does the school offer study abroad, independent study, or cross-enrollment in courses at nearby colleges?
College Selection Choices
Most college search programs ask you to make choices on certain criteria. This survey is typical of the kinds of things used to do some initial screening and narrowing. Once you have a pool of preliminary possibilities, you can begin to explore in more detail whether the college is a good fit for you.
___State College or University
___Private College or University
___Four-Year Liberal Arts
___Two-Year Community College
___Large - more than 15,000
___Medium - 5,000-15,000
___Small - under 5,000
___Out of State
7. Student Body
8. Geographic Diversity
___Local (most live nearby)
9. Courses and Programs
___Courses in your interes
___Advanced study in your major
___Wide variety of majors
___Very specialized focus
10. Scheduling System
___January or May terms
11. Amount of Academic Pressure
___Sports (which Division?___)
___Fraternities and Sororities
___Fine Arts opportunities
___Art, Music, Drama - for non-majors