Questions to Ask Yourself When Thinking About College Fit

Padya Paramita

Questions to Ask Yourself When Thinking About College Fit 

When you are a high school junior, there can be a lot on your plate, as you may be settling into leadership roles in your extracurriculars and planning when to take your standardized tests. You should also start thinking about what you enjoy studying and which topics you want to explore in greater depth. Knowing what you are likely to want to study in college can help you start to imagine the best campus environment for you. This leads you to the question of: what do you look for in your ideal college? 11th grade is the time to start college research, so that by the time it’s spring break, you can go on tours of campuses that end up on your short list. But, how do you determine your ideal college fit so that you can identify schools that align with your profile? 

Our Former Admissions Officers always talk about college fit, as they’ve used it during their time in the admissions office to determine who would thrive at their school. You’re going to be spending four years at your undergraduate institution! It’s extremely important that you apply to colleges that genuinely interest you, and where you could see yourself being happy at and pursuing your goals. There are many factors to consider, from location, to academic offerings, to financial aid. In this blog I have included several questions under different umbrellas to help you decide college fit. I have also delved more into developing a balanced college list so you have all fronts covered as you gear yourself up for the application process.

Questions to Ask Yourself 

Figuring out the perfect college fit isn’t the easiest of tasks. To help you determine the different things that might be important to you, we’ve provided a list of questions. As you read through them, you’ll hopefully be able to figure out what you’re looking for and what best fits your aspirations. Think carefully about each of them — even the seemingly little things can make a big difference in your experience!

Admitted Student Profile

  • What is your GPA? How does it match up with the median GPAs at the colleges you look at?
  • How do your numbers compare with median SAT or ACT scores of different schools?
  • How does your class rank fare against those of admitted students at various universities? 

Diversity Profile

  • Do the colleges meet what you’re looking for in terms of diversity?
  • Are you looking for a certain percentage of international students?
  • What is the gender distribution like?

Location and Campus Logistics

  • Do you want a more urban setting or rural campus?
  • Do you want to attend college in a big city or small town?
  • How far do you want to be from home?
  • What is your ideal campus size in terms of acreage?
  • Do you want a small community where you know almost everyone on campus, or would you prefer to be in a bigger place?
  • What kind of weather are you looking for? 
  • Do you work best in a particular setting?
  • Are you looking for a campus with internship opportunities in the area? 
  • Do you want to live on campus, or would you prefer off campus housing nearby?
  • What are you looking for out of dorms and rooms?
  • What facilities in a surrounding town would benefit you?
  • Do you want a campus with a grocery store within walking distance?
  • Would you prefer a campus that allows you to bring a car starting your freshman year?

Academics

  • What top three academic programs interest you the most? 
  • Do you know what you want to major or minor in?
  • Which schools are known for offering majors and programs in your area of interest?
  • What do you need from a college to achieve your academic goals?
  • Would you like a school that offers a first-year advisor?
  • What is your ideal average class size?
  • What are you looking for in professors? Does developing close relationships with professors matter to you?
  • What kinds of research opportunities would benefit your interests and goals?
  • What student-faculty ratio are you looking for?
  • Do you prefer larger lectures, or do you want discussion-based classes?
  • Would you thrive more in a large university or small liberal arts college?
  • What kind of study abroad opportunities are you looking for?

Extracurriculars and Social Life

  • What are your biggest involvements right now? How would you hope to continue them in college?
  • Do you want a school with a big athletic presence?
  • What kind of student organizations would align with your interests?
  • Do you want a school that allows you to start new clubs easily?
  • Would you prefer an on-campus social life or do you hope to attend many events outside campus?
  • What kind of recreational offerings do you want from of the surrounding area?
  • Would you want a school with a Greek life?

Resources

  • Do you want a college with a supportive writing center or other tutoring programs?
  • What do you look for out of career service offerings?
  • Is there a particular industry you want alums to have connections to?
  • Do you require any particular disability services?
  • Would you want a dining hall that’s allergy-free or completely vegan?
  • What kind of on-campus or off-campus job opportunities would interest you?

Cost and Financial Aid

  • What is your and your family’s budget for undergrad?
  • Do you want a school where the majority of students receive financial aid?
  • Are you open to taking loans if necessary?
  • Are you looking for any particular types of scholarships?
  • Are you interested in work-study opportunities?

Personality Fit

  • How would you describe yourself?
  • What are 3 things you value in a community?
  • What do you look for in classmates/roommates?
  • Who do you get along best with?
  • Are you an introvert or extrovert?

Making a Balanced List

Once you’ve found the answers to all of these questions, you know your ideal college fit! So, now it’s time to actually look for schools that meet the criteria you’ve got in mind.  Remember that no one college is likely to check off every single box. As you go through brochures, videos, and websites, you’ll come across schools that offer a degree of competitiveness in terms of acceptance rates and median numbers. Because thousands of students apply to college every year, there is no guarantee that you’ll be admitted to the universities you find most appealing. So, it’s crucial that you keep a balanced list.

Colleges you apply to fit into one of three tiers: reach, target, and safety. Reach schools are extremely selective institutions that may be on the Top 20 among the US News college rankings. These colleges often are what applicants consider “dream schools,” and are the hardest in terms of competition. Target schools are those where the average’ stats match your own numbers — what you select for this tier depends on your GPA and SAT score. Target institutions don’t guarantee admission - as many factors go into consideration beyond just your grades, so don’t take target schools for granted! Safety schools are ones where your academic credentials exceed the average range for admitted students. This doesn’t always mean you’re a shoo in either, but it’s good to keep your options open.

Even as you tier your list, remember that fit is more than just acceptance rates and medians number. It is about where you’re going to thrive. Make sure you pick schools based on the college fit you determined, so that no matter where you’re admitted, you’re happy to go!  

The college admissions landscape can be unpredictable. To make sure that you plan for an undergraduate experience that benefits your plans and interests, your list should consist of institutions that offer many of your ideal circumstances. Consider the questions carefully, so that once you’ve calculated college fit, the admissions officers can see that you’re a good match too! If you create a balanced list full of schools where the resources and facilities align with what you’re looking for, you’ll increase the odds of being admitted somewhere that hopefully sets you up for a bright future. Happy searching!

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