Ask a College Advisor: How Do I Know If a College Is a Good Fit for Me?

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Ask a College Advisor: How Do I Know If a College Is a Good Fit for Me?
portrait of Lauren Albano, M.Ed.
by Lauren Albano, M.Ed.
Published on October 21, 2021

Question: How do I know if a college is a good fit for me?

Answer: You might have heard a friend or relative say, "You'll just know" when a college is the right fit for you. If you happen to walk across a college campus and instinctively know that school is the best fit for you, that's great! However, finding the right fit isn't always so easy for everyone.

We'll explore some top factors to consider during your college search. They can help you make a decision and feel confident that you've found the perfect fit.

Location

One of the best ways to start narrowing down your search is by first choosing your preferred college locations. Are you hoping to be in a particular part of the country? Are you open to anywhere in the world? Are you set on an urban campus with access to big-city life? Would you prefer being nestled in a smaller college town?

At many schools set in bigger cities, students might spend their evenings and weekends out in the broader community. This can create an environment slightly different from the typical college experience. However, it also can provide many opportunities for internships and other off-campus activities.

Size

If you're hoping to get more face-to-face interaction with faculty members in a small class setting, you may be interested in a small or medium-sized school. Larger schools, on the other hand, can have the advantage of more resources, such as more course and club options and better campus facilities.

Academic Quality and Reputation

It can be tempting to rely on national rankings when deciding on the academic quality of a college. However, these rankings often don't tell the whole story. When comparing colleges, be sure to look at academic quality on a smaller scale by reviewing the program specializations or research opportunities a school has to offer.

Being in an honors program also may elevate the academic rigor for students looking for an additional challenge. Honors programs often can provide a better education — and lower price tag — through specialized courses and more individualized attention, compared to getting lost in the crowd at a highly competitive or higher-ranked school.

Campus Culture

Campus environment and culture are a huge part of the college experience. So find a school that offers activities that interest you. Are you hoping to be a part of Greek life? Do you want to root for your college football team? Maybe you prefer a school with an art and dance culture or lots of clubs to join.

Find a campus culture that suits your interests to help you build community ties and enjoy your time outside of class.

Diversity Resources

Colleges in the United States have not always been good about serving students of all backgrounds and identities. In fact, some schools still struggle with providing adequate support for historically excluded groups of students.

It is extremely important to find a school that supports you as a whole person. So closely examine the resources and services available for students identifying as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, undocumented, international, first generation, students with disabilities, religious, and more.

If you aren't interested in attending a predominantly white institution, you may focus your search on more diverse colleges, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) or other minority serving institutions (MSIs). Ensuring that you feel fully supported by your university and campus community can help you better succeed in your academic journey. Take care to find a school that suits you.

Value

College is expensive, but there are ways to get the most bang for your buck. In-state public schools typically have the lowest tuition costs. However, many private schools have more scholarships available, which can bring down the price tag.

Beyond the actual tuition cost, research the post-graduation employment rate and median earnings after graduation of a school's alumni. Compare that with the academic quality to find the degree with the best value and your perfect fit.

Creating Fit

Sometimes, students are unable to attend their first-choice school, or they may select a school that doesn't feel like the best fit at first. If this is you, don't panic! There are lots of ways to turn your backup school into the best fit for you.

Find a club or on-campus job, get to know faculty and staff, or find other leadership opportunities to help build your community. Your time in college will fly by, so make the most of your experience!

Summary

Choosing a college that's your perfect fit takes time. Try not to compare your journey to others. Reflect on the factors that are most important to you. Use that to guide you through your decision-making process. By prioritizing your individual needs and desires, you'll be better able to find your perfect fit.

Check out more answers to college-related questions or submit your own question on our Ask a College Advisor page.


Feature Image: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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