Students walk by the Boatwright Memorial Library on an autumn day.

Finding Your College Fit

August 18, 2022
A post by Austen Kelso, Senior Assistant Director of Admission

Everyone around you helping with your college search is likely talking about “fit.”

“You just need to find the right college fit,” they say.

“You’ll know which school is the right fit when you visit campus,” they opine.

“(Insert University) was the perfect fit for me,” your friend exclaims after their college tour.

I just don’t think they are a good fit for you,” your parents explain as they filter your college mail and toss endless postcards in the recycling (you get A LOT of postcards, don’t you?)

It all sounds so…easy, doesn’t it? Well, we know it’s not always so straightforward. So, let’s talk about finding the right college “fit” because I am sure the topic has already come up a few times in your search so far.

Let’s begin with an important step: Take the pressure of finding fit off yourself. We know you may not always show it – but we understand that weight of expectations and aspirations can be heavy. Finding the right fit simply means finding an institution that you like. And, importantly, a place that will provide an environment where you belong and experiences that will allow you to succeed academically, socially, and personally.

In some regards, I think it is a shame that we rely so heavily on the word “fit” because it implies singularity; as if you are a puzzle piece, trying to locate your exact match in the broad expanse of colleges and universities.

In reality, there are likely multiple schools that are a good match for you. There are multiple schools where you will belong. Multiple schools where you will thrive in the classroom, make friends, grow, and flourish. So, when you think about finding fit – I encourage you not to think of it in absolute terms.

But I know what you are thinking - what practical things can you be doing to help find a good college fit?

In my opinion, it starts with asking yourself a simple (but maybe not as simple to answer) question: “What do I value?”

  • What do I value in a classroom experience?
  • What do I value in a community?
  • Do I value being near an urban center? In an urban center? I hate urban centers!
  • Do I value a small community? A large school community?
  • Do I value small classrooms? Large classrooms?
  • Do I value having close relationships with professors?
  • Do I value graduating without student loans?
  • Do I value living on campus?
  • Do I value…(fill in any number of aspects of a college or academic experience)?

As you answer these questions, I encourage you to be honest with yourself. From experience, this is not always as easy as it sounds. It is natural to let external pressures or expectations influence your answers. So, as you reflect, try not to assign a value judgement to your answers to these questions. If you feel like large lecture halls are a good place for you – that is okay! Even if the people around you value something different. Being honest with yourself now will pay dividends later as you research, tour, apply, and eventually select a college choice.

As you return answers to these questions and create a database of the things which are important to you, you’ll begin to create a custom filter through which you can run the colleges and universities that you are exploring. You’ll be able to easily assess and measure how schools fit your value filters. You have created a rubric unique to you! And by doing so, you can apply some standardized methodology to matching everything a school offers to all of the things you want and need to be happy.

The key to this process is time. Take some time to reflect and ponder a set of “value” questions. And don’t be afraid to revisit these questions periodically. The answers you have may change over time and there is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes what is important to you at the start of junior year will change by the time you are a rising senior. Give yourself that room to grow and change. As with most important things in life, finding fit will take some time and energy to arrive at the right destination. Let us know if we can help you along the way!