High school seniors all over the country are anxiously awaiting their college acceptance letters. Many students will find that they’ve been accepted to multiple colleges. Typically, students apply to a few different schools and when they get their letters conventional wisdom says to pick the “best” one… with best usually referring to academic reputation.
This wisdom is flawed. Picking a school based on academics or any one factor is a recipe for disaster and the reason that well over a third of students end up transferring. (And that figure doesn’t include dropouts.)
Students need to pick the school that offers the best fit. “Best fit” is not based solely on one factor. It’s a variety of factors that need to be weighed in order to come to the best decision. So, what should students be looking for when choosing a college in terms of fit?
- Price fit
Ideally, you would prefer not to graduate with a mortgage worth of student loans, so it is key that the college a student picks is affordable. This isn’t just tuition either. The cost of living, scholarships, aid, and the ability to work if needed should all be factored in.
No one thing on this list should be the reason you choose a school, but if you had to do so, this would be it.
- Location fit
Many times, students transfer to be closer to home. Knowing how far you want to be away from home is something people should figure out before they commit to somewhere for four years.
- Academic fit
Students should choose a school that matches their academic profile if possible. This refers to more than just the difficulty of the curriculum. Does the school have the major you want? Does it have the programs you need?
There are so many other considerations that go along with college that sometimes we forget to evaluate them as schools.
- Demographic fit
Students should look at the student and faculty body before they attend a school. This isn’t to place a value judgment on different types of campuses, but if you are a student that wants to attend a diverse school, be aware that not every school will check that box. This step is especially critical for minority students.
- Size fit
Some people don’t operate well in a crowd. Though colleges are normally depicted as large state institutions there are plenty of options for people who want a more personal experience. That is something that should be evaluated before you pick. For example, if you desire a smaller class setting the University of Central Florida probably isn’t for you.
At the end of the day, students are experts on themselves and are perfectly capable of making good decisions about where they attend. However, they need to be intentional about it, or they could end up regretting their decisions later. There is nothing wrong with transferring and not every transfer picked the wrong school, but it’s costly, time-consuming, and probably better to avoid if you can.