Did you know that there are more than 4,000 degree-granting institutions in the US? No wonder it is so hard to choose a college. Whether you are just creating your list or trying to finalize your college choice you need to make sure you consider the three areas of fit.
Financial Fit ~ Academic Fit ~ Social Fit
What is the cost of attendance (not just tuition, but also room, board, books, supplies, fees, etc.)? Does the school offer need-based financial aid or merit-based scholarships? Who qualifies and how much do students typically receive? While you should never consider a college solely based on the sticker price, you should certainly examine what will happen if you are accepted but do not receive any financial aid.
Does the college fit into your academic aspirations? If you are undecided about your major–does the college offer a wide variety of programs and do they provide opportunities to help you discover your academic interests? What if you change your major during your time as an undergraduate (many students do)? What is your academic ability? Many students often think about getting in the most selective colleges but remember with that highly selective college name also come high levels of responsibility and possibly stress. Is this something you will be able to handle.
Making friends and meeting new people is a vital part of college life. Will you find “your people” at this school? What does the student population look like in terms of diversity? Are there clubs, social activities, political or religiously affiliated groups, sports/recreational options, student centers or other places to help connect you to students who are like minded? Are there options for you to learn from students who have backgrounds and life-experiences different from your own? When you visit the campus, does it “feel” right? Can you see yourself attending college there?
Remember—YOUR best fit may not be the same as the best fit for your friend, your older sibling, or parents. Find the right combination that will make your college experience meaningful for you.