More likely than not, your student did not choose his/her nursery school, elementary school, middle school, or high school. This makes choosing a right fit college more challenging and more important for many students. It is extremely important to make sure that the college a student chooses feels like the right place to call home for the next four years.
Research is essential to finding that right fit college. This process includes taking virtual tours of schools, signing up for information sessions, digging into schools’ websites to find out more about opportunities inside and outside of the classroom, and, when possible, visiting a range of schools.
Before your student begins the research process, he/she should spend some time self-reflecting. Why does he/she want to go to college? What does your student feel are his/her strongest skills? What are his/her interests in and out of school? Taking some time to answer these initial questions helps your student to prioritize and provides him/her with direction as he/she embarks on his/her search.
Once your student starts to delve into the research process, there are 4 essential criteria that he/she should consider when choosing a right fit school.
- Academics. If your student has an idea about what he/she wants to study, make sure that the schools to which he/she is applying has majors and minors that fit your student’s interests. While studies show that over 50 percent of students change their majors once they start college, your student should make sure that the college of his or her choice has areas of specialization that fits his/her interests. In addition to ensuring that a student’s right fit college has majors and minors of interest, your student should research the academic resources at each college to which he/she is applying. If a student needs extra tutoring or academic accommodations, he/she must research these programs at various schools to ensure that they can accommodate his/her needs.
- Class size and access to professors. What is the right fit college class size for the student? Is your student interested in sitting in 300-plus person lecture halls or does he/she want to attend a college with small classes and interactive discussions? Consider the average class size at a school and, more specifically, for the particular majors in which the student might be interested. Some larger colleges have programs with smaller class sizes and intimate learning communities, while the most popular majors at smaller colleges might have significantly larger class sizes. Just as it is important to find about class sizes, your student should research whether a majority of classes in his/her area of interest are taught by professors or teaching assistants. It is also important to consider whether developing close relationships with professors is important to the student. Ask about professors’ availability at colleges of interest so that your student feels comfortable with his/her ability to access professors when needed.
- Location. What is the right fit college location for the student? Does your student want to spend his/her four years of college in a big city, a cute college town, or on a bucolic campus in the middle of nowhere? The size of the city or town in which a college is located also impacts the culture of the school. Another factor for your student to consider is how far away from home he/she wants to be. Does he/she want to be able to drive to school, or is he/she comfortable jumping on a plane to get to and from school? And what about the weather? Is your student a skier, a beach bum, or something in between? The climate in an area can impact the college experience as your student navigates outdoor activities.
- Social environment. When searching for the right fit social environment at a college, your student should consider whether he/she is particularly independent or likes being in a small, supportive community. At urban colleges, with so much happening off campus, campus activities may be less essential to the college experience. This is particularly true in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and New York. If your student thinks that he/she will thrive in a close-knit community, he/she should look at colleges in smaller cities and more rural areas. Your student should also consider whether he/she wants a college social environment that revolves around fraternities and sororities, large sporting events, and/or student-run clubs and events that are open to all. If your student has a specific type of social activity or organization in which he/she wants to be involved, he/she should do the research to find out where those opportunities exist. Your student should also research whether a college campus is diverse and welcoming to students from different socio-economic, racial, and religious backgrounds. Making sure that students have a solid understanding of the student population will be important to ensuring his/her comfort level. Finding out what other students do on the weekends on campus will also be important for your student. Some college campuses are bustling with an array of activities on weekends, while others are quieter, giving students a greater chance to study or go home on the weekends.
Finding the right fit college is an intensive, often time consuming process. Yet, investing the time into this experience could make a significant difference in your student’s college experience. Providing students with the opportunity to find that right fit can make a huge difference in everything from their dedication to their academics to their future career paths.
GAMECHANGER’s college specialists are available to support your student as he/she chooses a right fit college.