What do we mean by fit?
Fit is the your natural instinct or comfort level toward a setting. It’s what makes sense to you. When we talk about “fit” in terms of higher education, we like to consider these ten points that will help us determine your next steps.
Note, these aren’t listed in a strict order, because each individual will prioritize them differently. When you sit down with one of our planners, arranging these factors in order of priority is a big first step.
1. Location and Size
Are you interested in a big city or a small town setting? Close to home or on the other side of the country? Do you want to live in a climate that is warm, moderate, or seasonal? Do you want to live in an urban, suburban, or rural environment? Do I want a big campus with many majors and more opportunities? Are large lectures with hundreds of students or small classes with more one on one student participation better?
2. Admissions requirements
What are the average ACT scores, GPA, or class rank of admitted students? How difficult is it to be accepted in this program? What criteria are they looking for in order to be admitted (for example, should you have be taking honors or advanced placement courses, or engaging in community service)? Do you have at least the minimum high school classes completed to apply?
Does the school offer the courses/majors that excite you? Are there special programs available to study abroad or participate in internships, senior research, or creative projects? How difficult is it to switch majors?
How recognizable is the program of your choice? U.S. News and World Report ranks schools annually on factors such as admissions standards and value for money. The reputation of the school you choose may have an impact on your future employment or admission to a graduate school.
What is the student-teacher ratio at a given school or program? What percentage of classes are taught by teaching assistants or part-time faculty members? This may determine how much contact you will have with professors. These same professors will act as mentors, assist you with career networking, and write letters of recommendation.
6. Student Life
Clubs, anyone? What leadership opportunities, residence life or Greek life options, athletics, social and political activism groups, and cultural experiences matter most to you? How diverse is the student body ethnically and socio-economically? Do most students live on or off campus? These are all key questions that can make or break your ability to feel at “home.”
7. Quality of Education
How accessible are the professors? Are students engaged in research projects or internships as undergraduates? What are the retention and graduation rates of the school? What are common paths for alumni to take after graduating? Educational quality is important to consider when making an investment of this caliber.
Unfortunately, there is often more than just the bottom line tuition cost. What about room and board, books, and transportation? What percentage of students receive financial assistance? Are there employment opportunities available on or near the campus? Set yourself up well so that you are confident you can finish your degree before you have even started.
9. Support Services
Spoiler alert: getting sick away from home for the first time is never fun. Check to see if a campus has health facilities, recreational facilities, library services, mental health counselors, and computer labs with printers. If you have a disability (physical, learning, mental, or otherwise), does the institution provide adequate personal assistance? Are there tutoring options available?
How safe is the campus and surrounding neighborhood? What type of security measures are in place in residence halls and campus facilities? It is your right to feel safe and secure during your time as a postsecondary student.
A FINAL WORD:
We highly recommend visiting multiple colleges, universities, or trade schools before making a final decision. Use this list as a guide to ask questions and experience as much as you can of student life.