How Do I Know if a College is a Good Fit?

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There is a college out there for nearly everyone. The most important part of finding the right college is determining if a school is a good fit for you.

A college that’s a good fit should have the following characteristics.

1. The college matches you academically

You want to be challenged in college, but being in over your head is stressful. Likewise, if your academic ability is much higher than other students, you may feel bored or our of place.

It’s important to look for colleges where your academic profile (i.e. test scores, GPA, class rigor) is similar to other students’.

If you are interested in honors coursework, make sure the college has a strong honors program. You can contact an honors program directly for more information.

2. The college is affordable for you and your family

Most students take on some debt in college, but there comes a point where excess borrowing doesn’t make sense. Excessive loans can effect your financial health down the road. Try to cover as much of your college costs as possible with grants.

The less you have to pay for college, the better return you will get on your investment. Cost shouldn’t be the only thing you consider when choosing a college, but it should cross your mind.

It’s important to note that you should always compare colleges based on net price rather than the published cost of attendance.

The net price is what your family will actually pay–based on your financial circumstances and academic merit–and might be dramatically lower than the full cost.

Many times, academically qualified students are scared away from “expensive” colleges that have a price tag of $50,000, when in reality, their costs may have been less than attending an in-state public. If you want to see what your net price might be at a 4-year college in the U.S., use the College Raptor match search to compare costs.

3. The college will help you get where you want to go

Presumably, you’re going to college to help you reach your goals. A college that’s a good fit will live up to this description.

First, make sure a college offers your major (if you already know what you want to study).

Second, research the program at the college. Does the program incorporate research with a professor? Are there internship opportunities through the program? Do the courses look interesting to you? Make sure you’re getting into a program that is exciting, challenging, and will help you grow as a student–and as a person!

If it don’t know exactly what you want to study, then consider the general field or area you might be interested in and look for colleges that have strengths in those areas. For instance, if you know that you are generally interested in science, you might want to look for research universities, even if you don’t know exactly what kind of science you want to study.

4. The college feels “right”

Finding the right college

  • Compare your GPA and test scores to the previous incoming class
  • A good-fit college won’t overburden you with debt
  • Paying less for college=better return on investment
  • A college that doesn’t offer the programs you’re interested in isn’t a good fit
  • Colleges which are strong in your program of interest are even better
  • If you have the chance, take a campus tour

A college has to feel like home to you–you’re going to be spending most of four years there after all. Don’t downplay this aspect of fit.

A lot goes into “feel” equation, including geographic location, size/type of the college, and social atmosphere. Some students also take campus diversity, sports, and distance from home into account. Only you know which combination of these things will make you happy–listen to yourself.

The best way to get a feel for a college is to take a campus tour. Being immersed in the college for just a few hours can make a significant impact on your feelings about it. Once you’ve narrowed down your college list, consider visiting several of them.

See if there are overnight programs available or if you can sit in on a class. The more time you can spend on a campus, the better you will be able to determine whether a college is a good fit.

If you can’t take a campus tour, get as much information as you can from current and former students. See what students are saying about their college online. College Raptor also provides student life data for every college that may help you get a feel for what the culture is like.

One thought on “How Do I Know if a College is a Good Fit?”

  1. The most important thing to consider when college shopping is making sure the college will get you the degree you want. However, I do think it is good to pick the college that feels right. This means doing research into how the college is run, you probably don’t need to research the board of trustees, but check the history of the college and any problems they have had. Then visit the campus and see if it feels comfortable, and to see how easy it will be to get on and off campus. Just make sure you visit more than one campus.

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