Dear Estelle. You frequently write about the importance of finding schools that are a “ perfect fit ” for students when exploring their college options. My wife and I think we know which colleges would provide a positive environment, academically, socially and emotionally, for our son but are reluctant to tell him what to do. We’ve heard about those “helicopter parents.” TS Parent, Denver
Choosing a college is a very important decision but it doesn’t have to be intimidating. If a student has an understanding of what he or she expects from college and is truly honest with himself, arriving at a good list of schools will not be difficult.
Initially, it’s important for the student to have a sense of his own personality and to review his expectations of what a college should offer him. This means identifying personality traits, academic challenge, possibly career interests, and social factors that make him the person who he is. Frequently it helps to have an objective third person elicit the answers to these difficult questions.
Reviewing the expectations of what a college should offer is the next step. Location, size and profile of the student body, majors, living arrangements, athletics, religious needs, extracurricular activities are just a few of the factors to consider.
Once the student has a good understanding of himself and his expectations he can start to identify schools that will comprise his list. Creating a list is not an easy task and often the assistance of a knowledgeable person can be beneficial. College consultants, parents, counselors, teachers, older siblings, and friends in college can provide suggestions and guidance. College students can give good insight into what they like and dislike about a college, which frequently can help to narrow the list.
After creating the initial list of colleges, the student should research the selections by studying college websites and view books, checking out college guides, meeting college alumni, talking to college students at the schools, visiting with admissions reps at college fairs and those who come to the high school. If possible, visit the selected colleges. Take a tour of the campus, attend an information session, and meet current students.
I encourage my clients to create a matrix listing all the colleges they’ve selected with the important factors they’ve identified. Using this matrix they can see which colleges best meet their expectations.
Just remember. There’s no perfect college. There will be high points and deficiencies in each one of them. Spending time to do a thorough job of exploration and identifying those colleges that most closely fit one’s expectations will result in creating a quality list. There are always a number of colleges and universities that will fit the desired criteria.