How to think through college fit
If you’ve been through the college admission process recently you probably have heard the term “fit.” Meant to describe how well a perspective student might connect to a college, what really is fit and how should students think about it?
The three important elements of fit are often thought of as academic, social and financial. And Chad Terry, counselor at Rosemount High School, agrees that these are important characteristics to focus on. “These are good starting points when thinking about fit. The idea of fit has changed and the financial fit is so important now,” Terry said. “Students really need to take into account financial aid before they can determine if it’s a good fit.”
Even before taking into account academic, social and financial fit, Terry says students first need to work to understand themselves. “We always try to meet the student where they are at. Often if a student is having a hard time getting started in the college search they might still need to figure out who they are,” Terry said. “Helping them better define what’s important to them, their values and goals is the very first thing we do.”
There is a lot that goes into deciding where to go to college. “One mistake students make is that they listen to everyone else but themselves,” said Leslie Connelly, counselor at Cretin-Derham Hall. “It can be hard for students to push aside the noise and figure out what’s important.”
When thinking about fit, it’s really about what will help make a student successful in college, Connelly said. Success can be defined in multiple ways including four-year graduation rates, which are key data points to keep in mind when choosing a college. But success is complicated and looks different to different students. “Success in college is a lot of what you do on campus and most students can be successful at many places,” Connelly said. “If a student is happy on campus and about their decision they are more likely to be engaged, which often leads to success.”
Along with academic, social and financial fit, Connelly and Terry talked about the importance of other factors, including location, size and the opportunities available on campus when thinking about fit.
“When students are thinking about deciding where to go to college it has to feel good and also make sense,” Terry said. “A good fit will feel like the right place and when the student and family thinks about the decision critically it also makes sense — it’s important for it to be both.”