By Brian Dwyer
The college selection process presents students and families a dizzying array of things to consider when deciding what college is right for them — size, cost, research opportunities, majors (and minors), athletics, etc.
While one factor may mean more to one student than another, all of these considerations are an important part of the process to determine which college is a right fit for you.
Finding the school that is the best fit for you should be one of the most important considerations you make when selecting your college. Ultimately no one student is the same, and even students selecting the same major (sustainability for example), could have had been drawn to the university for reasons other than their major.
Exploring what makes a good fit is relatively straightforward, but requires research, planning, and open communication between students, parents and the college.
Visit the college campus
Typically, the best way to determine if a prospective college or university is a good fit (and has what you are, and are not, looking for) is to visit the campus.
Visiting university campuses can help you immediately determine what is important to you. Visiting a variety of campus locations (urban vs. rural vs. suburban), size (large vs. small), and designations (public vs. private) will help you and your family understand what is going to maximize your time at college and the investment you will make.
I always encourage prospective students to ask about the opportunity to sit in on class, meet with faculty, as well as sit down to talk with various campus office representatives — admissions, student affairs, or financial aid.
The availability of these kinds of opportunities during the visit can help answer some questions right off the bat, i.e., “is this university going to offer the support and access I need to be successful?”
And visit again
As students and families around the country go through the process of determining their top universities, I also encourage students to take a second (or even a third) visit to those campuses to reaffirm why they identify closest with them.
Interestingly enough, on these visits they often begin to see that the universities they are comparing have similar attributes.
So, be sure to take the time to visit college campuses. These visits will help determine what is the right fit for you, and ultimately play a positive long-term role in your ability to be successful and achieve your academic and professional goals at your future alma mater.
(The author is an undergraduate admissions counselor at Chatham University, Pittsburgh, Pa.)
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