How to Find Good College Fits

College fit is a term you are going to hear a lot as you are going through the college search process. However, what exactly does college fit mean? A good college fit is when a college meets your needs and wants academically, socially, and financially. Good college fits will meet most, if not all, of your preferences when it comes to the college you will attend.

The list below offers some of the things you should consider when searching for colleges that could be a good fit.

Academics

  • Majors. The institution has the major or majors you are considering. If you are considering two majors and you are not sure what major you will ultimately choose, it is best to consider colleges that offer both majors. Studies show over half of all students change their major once they are in college. Therefore, you will want to make sure the college you attend has all of the programs you are interested in studying.
  • Class size. Some students enjoy large lecture halls, while others need a small classroom with regular discussion. Whatever style is best for you is what you should be looking for in a college. A note about college size: while large colleges are known for lectures and small colleges are known for small classes, it is not always the case. Students may find large universities with intimate learning communities. In addition, large lectures, at least for introductory classes, can be found at small colleges.
  • Academic resources. If you know you will need extra tutoring, advising, or late study sessions in the library, look for colleges with these options. For students who require accommodations, it is important to research the resources colleges have to offer them and even reach out to the offices on campus that handle accommodations. While all colleges will do their best to work with students who need accommodations, some may do it better than others.

Social

  • Student activities. If you have a specific student organization or activity you are looking for at a college, make sure they have the activity. If they do not have the activity and you’re up for the challenge, look into what it would take to start the activity or organization on campus.
  • Diversity. If diversity is important to you, look into the diversity of the campus. Sometimes colleges look more diverse in their marketing publications than they really are. Therefore, look up the diversity statistics so you know you have a better understanding of the student population.
  • Weekend activities. For students who will be living on campus and plan to stay on the weekends, weekend activities can be especially important. Some campuses are very active on weekends, while others are not.

Financial

  • True cost of attendance. Sticker price of colleges can be very deceiving when most offer financial aid. Before discounting a college because of a high price tag, look into the financial aid options available at each college. All colleges are required to have net price calculators on their website for students to get an idea about the financial aid they may qualify for if they were to attend.
  • Affordability. When students are starting to build their college list, parents and students should talk about what the family can realistically afford to help pay for the cost of college. This is the time families should learn more about the FAFSA and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). While many colleges will try to meet the full need of students, most families will still need to pay some of the cost out of pocket.

Other Preferences

If there is anything else that is important to you, such as location, religious affiliation, or a career center, look for colleges that meet your desires. With over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, you are bound to find multiple colleges that meet all of your preferences.

Overall Feeling

While it is very important to make sure colleges meet all of the criteria you are looking for, it is equally important to make sure the colleges feel right. There could be many colleges that have everything you are looking for in a college, but each campus atmosphere will feel different. Therefore, the next step is to visit the campuses that meet your preferences. You will want to make sure that the colleges will feel like home for you.

If a physical visit is not an option for all colleges, at least at the beginning, consider finding other ways to learn more about the campus community. Virtual tours are great ways to see moving pictures of the campus and to hear from students. Student publications, such as the student newspaper, will be a great place to learn about what is happening on campus, as well as the issues students are facing at the college. In addition, the official social media accounts are a good way to see what the college values and what the institution is proud to showcase to the world. While the best way to learn about the campus community and atmosphere is to physically visit, these options can give you an initial idea about the colleges.

Finding colleges that are a good fit is very important. College is a place you will be spending at least four years of your life and the time will be a lot more enjoyable if you find a place that is a good fit. In addition, students who are happy at their colleges will probably do better academically than a student who is unhappy with the college they are attending. Just because a college has name recognition or prestige does not mean it will be the right place for you. Instead, consider looking at all colleges, even lesser known colleges, if they offer everything you are looking for in a college.

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