Finding the Right Fit

How do you know if a college is the right fit? Here's our 15-point set of criteria to help students determine what they're really looking for in a campus experience.

A new study released by the Stanford Graduate School of Education defines a good college fit as one where a student will “be engaged — in class and out — by what the college has to offer.”

But, how to you determine the right fit?  College Ascent uses a 15-point set of criteria to help families define what the college-bound student is looking for in a campus experience.   These criteria focus on academic, social and financial fit. Assessing “fit” will factor in everything from average applicant GPA to research opportunities to whether the campus has a good sushi bar!

College Ascent recommends that students tour (even virtually) a wide range of school options; big and small, local and out-of-state, etc. to get a general idea of what they find appealing.  Here are a few additional factors to consider when choosing a college:


Do you want to stay close to home or experience life in a new region of the country?  Do you like the idea of studying under the hot desert sun or watching the rain drip off the ivy-covered buildings?  Location can be a key factor in searching for your right fit.  

Urban or Rural?
Urban campuses appeal to students who like to have a lot of activities outside of their campus environment.  Easy access to art, food, culture and public transportation can provide an enriching college experience.   Emma, a junior at NYU, says that “in the city, you can learn inside and outside the classroom.”

Colleges in rural locations will provide a more tranquil, classic college campus experience.  Often located in small college-centered towns, these schools have strong local ties and often work diligently to bring speakers, performers and concerts onto campus.  


According to Steve Antonoff, a renowned author and consultant in higher education, size considerations often cause students to limit the field of potential colleges too early in the process of choosing a college. There is often a misconception that larger schools offer a less personalized academic environment.  However, advising is often better. Larger campuses may also give students a better opportunity to find their niche.  Smaller colleges may give students more opportunity to connect with professors and their peers.  College tours, even just walking around a college campus, are key to getting the feel of large, medium, and smaller-sized student bodies.  

Extracurriculars, Learning Support and Career Advising

I always ask students to picture themselves on campus.  What are you doing?  What kind of help do you need to succeed?  A recent client headed to the University of Colorado wanted the classic Division 1 Saturday afternoon football experience.  So, we looked for schools with a strong football tradition.  A current client interested in studying International Business wants the opportunity to study in France for a semester of language immersion.  Other things to consider include internships, research opportunities, academic support and mental health services.  

Of course, there are many other factors to consider; cost, academic rigor, religious affiliation, curriculum and career counseling. Finding the right fit before you settle into your dorm will set you up for college success!

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