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  • Eric Stutman

Tips for finding a great college fit for your student

What does it mean to look for a “good college fit” for a student? There are many characteristics of a college that will help ensure that your student will be happy and thrive. Three of the most important factors for a good fit are the academic, social, and financial fit.

Finding an academic fit for your student helps ensure that s/he will feel challenged at his/her college, but not overwhelmed. Most students would rather not be the strongest or weakest student in their college class, but somewhere in the middle so they feel similar to their peers. Naviance is a great tool to help determine academic fit, since it contains SAT and GPA data about students from only your high school who were accepted or denied from a given college. If your student's SAT and GPA are well above (safety school) or below (reach school) the average student accepted to a college, s/he may not be a great academic fit for that school.

A social college fit includes many factors including the party atmosphere, greek life, religious affiliation, political bent, academic pressure, school spirit, regional culture, and more. One way families can learn about the social aspects of a school is by reading how students at the school describe it's culture. Books like The Fiske Guide, and websites like help give a sense of the social fit. College visits are probably the best way to see if a student likes a college and can picture themselves there in the near future. Guidance counselors and college consultants read about, and visit a lot of schools, so are great resourses for families. I post college visit reports on my blog that help families learn about a school based on my visit. See for examples of visit reports.

Finally, a good financial fit is vital so that families feel confident that they can afford to send their student to a given college for four years (or more). To help determine fit, every college in the US has a Net Price Calculator somewhere on their website. Families enter financial information about their annual earnings and savings, as well as academic information about their student. Given this information, the net price calculator produces a report that gives families an estimate of the financial “package” they will offer the student if they are accepted to the college. While not a guarantee of the exact final package, this estimate can help families determine if a college is financially feasible for their family before their student even applies to the college.

Finding a great college fit is the ultimate goal of the college admissions process for every family. Finding schools that are a good academic, social, and financial fit for a student will greatly increase their odds of attending a school where they will be happy and go on to graduate.

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