At Milestone our college advisors often talk about a “good fit”. Perhaps that’s worth an explanation. Good fit between a student and a college basically means four things to us: the fit should be right academically, financially, socially, and emotionally.
Academic fit may be the most obvious. First, the college should have classes and/or majors that interest the student. But, also the school should provide the appropriate academic rigor for that student. A school where the rigor is too demanding may cause major anxiety and a school where classes are not challenging enough may be boring. This is clearly a general statement as classes can vary greatly within a college. But remember that if a student is at the top of his/her high school class, a top academic college it is likely to be filled with other students at that same level. So, it is important to make sure that each student is appropriately challenged and has the potential for academic success. Also, be aware that some college environments tend to be more collaborative while others are more competitive. Which would be a better fit?
Finally, it is a good idea to consider a student’s post graduate and/or career aspirations. Sometimes it makes sense to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond.
Financial fit tends to be a family affair. How much can the family truly afford to contribute? How much financial or merit aid can the student expect to receive? Financial advisors tend to agree that parents should not compromise retirement savings in order to pay for their child’s college education. If that means the student needs to attend a less expensive college then that should be discussed toward the beginning of the process.
The social component may be harder to assess from the start. Students should, however, consider how they would create a solid social network for themselves. Is Greek life important? Would they prefer to join clubs or social communities to meet friends with similar interests? Consideration should also be given to the size of the school and how effectively a student can navigate the social network and find personal belonging.
In a way, emotional fit encompasses all the other categories. If the academic, financial and social fit are good, then there tends to be a better emotional fit because the student tends to be less stressed and more confident. But, other factors can impact emotional fit like distance from home and weather. Some students need to know that they can return home, perhaps to recharge, any time they want. Other students will be happy far away. Furthermore, some students prefer warm weather and find the short, cold days of winter particularly depressing. These factors, which some students may overcome with time, can greatly impact the emotional health of others.
Finding the right fit is not always easy but it is important to consider all these factors when selecting a school or schools. And while some students do find a good fit from the beginning, other students need time to adjust. Regardless, from the decisions we make, we learn and grow and, ultimately, we get to where we need to be.