What Makes a Good College Fit?

One phrase you’ll see a lot of while searching for colleges is “good fit.” For example: “You want a school that’s a good fit for you.” “A good fit is more important than a brand name school.”

But what exactly makes a “good fit?” What should you be looking for?

College student walking on campus

Academic Match

College is first and foremost about your education. Therefore, you should look for an academic match with a school. This includes a couple different things.

Average ACT/SAT Scores: Be sure to research a school’s average entrance scores and compare them to your own (which you can do right here on College Raptor). If you’re way above the average, you might get in but you may not be challenged enough. And in the reverse, if you’re well below the average that school may not be right for you.

The Majors You’re Interested In: If you already have an idea of what you want to study in college, make sure the colleges you’re interested in have that major available. Some colleges will have general majors (like Business), and others might have more focused niche majors (like Electronic Commerce).

GPA: Like the average ACT/SAT scores, it can be helpful to know a school’s average GPA score. If you’re well above the average, you may be a shoe-in for admissions, but find yourself coasting through classes and bored.

Location, Location, Location

Some students want to stay close to home (and reap the in-state tuition benefits) others want to travel across the country. Some want the sunny weather of the south, others prefer the full four seasons in the north.

Location plays a large role in selecting a college. It may not be the deciding factor, but it’s important to take into account nevertheless.

A Size That Fits Just Right

There are pros and cons to each size of college. Large schools, upwards of 10,000 students offer diversity, the chance to meet many new people with different ideas, a lot of on-campus resources, and generally very intense school spirit. However, some students feel lost in the crowd.

Small colleges offer a greater intimacy between students and teachers, foster a sense of community, and a more personalized touch, but can feel limiting.

Of course, you could always split the difference with a mid-sized college. Not too large, not too small, just right.

The Proper Resources

Colleges offer a host of resources to their students. Things like writing labs, student healthcare, tech/IT services, counseling, women’s centers, etc. If you have any special needs, it’s good to check out what accommodations are available.

A Feel-Good Visit

One of the more difficult aspects to describe is how the campus “feels” to you. Students should absolutely visit their prospective colleges in person so they can get a “feel” for the potential school. To see if they fit in with the campus culture.

Students often cite this feeling as a determining factor in whether or not they want to pursue the school further. Sometimes visiting a dream school can leave you with a lackluster feeling.

My brother, for example, went to visit his dream school and wasn’t really “feeling it” but later he toured another school lower on his list—Loyola Marymount University—and fell in love with it the second he set foot on campus. He’s now attending that college and is ecstatic about his choice.

Student Organizations and Clubs

When you’re at college, you won’t want to focus only on your studies. It helps to have a good social life as well. Student organizations and clubs are a great way to do this as it furthers your education, social life, and interests.

Take a look at the various organizations and clubs around your potential school. Are they well-rounded? Are there some you’re interested in? Many schools will have a huge variety from history to sports, so do your research and see how you can become a part of clubs if you attend the school.

Also keep in mind, even if you don’t currently see your interest listed on the “clubs” page of your school’s website, you can always bring it to fruition. Ask the college how you go about starting an organization or club and see how feasible it is. You can even ask on college social media pages to gauge interest from other students.

Known for Your Intended Major/Program

One of the most important things when it comes to choosing a college is your intended major. You don’t want to go to a school that has a subpar program for what you are looking to study. A strong program in place will help you become a well-rounded student while also prepared for life after graduation.

You can talk to other alumni to see about your intended major, but also do research on your own. What are websites and articles saying about your area of study with a potential school? Are students who graduate from the major getting jobs in their field?

Affordability

You may not want to think about it too much, but something you really do have to consider when deciding whether a college is a good fit for you or not is affordability. How much is this college going to cost you? And it’s important to look past sticker price; that number is rarely what it will cost you to attend this school.

Consider all your options from loans to scholarships to offers from the school. It may be less expensive than you thought, or it could require more loans than you’re willing to take out. You’ll want to apply to FAFSA, of course, but also consider grants and private loans depending on your financial situation.

The College Fit

A number of elements come together to create the college fit. The most important thing is how you connect with those various elements and the school itself.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!

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