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4 min read

How to Know if a College is Right for You: Finding Your Best Fit

How to Know if a College is Right for You: Finding Your Best Fit

Finding a college that is truly the best fit for you can be a difficult task to accomplish. With over 4,000 colleges and universities across the country, how do you even begin to narrow down your options? Somewhere among the list is the best college, but how do you find that college? 

The answer begins with knowing that the best college is the one that is right for you. It may not be the school with the most impressive athletics teams or the school with the largest campus, but it will be the school that fits you well and meets your needs. 

Let’s begin by addressing the important question: how do you know if a college is right for you? The college that fits you best will: 

  1. Offer a program of study to match your interests and needs
  2. Provide a style of instruction that matches the way you like to learn
  3. Provide a level of academic rigor to match your aptitude and preparation
  4. Offer a community that feels like home to you
  5. Value you for what you have to offer

More on that in a moment! First, let's explore why you should consider college fit.


Why It's Important to Focus on Finding a College that Fits You Well

Which college is best for you? And why might that be the case? On the surface, the questions might not seem very important. After all, with so many options presented to you, you may think they must all be good enough.

However, understanding the importance of answering those questions, along with other questions about college fit, can make a big difference in the outcome of your college education.

This is an incredibly formative time in life. If you’ve made the decision that you’d like to attend college, it is important that you fully commit to putting thought into what type of college will be your best fit. 

Choosing where to go to college should be a decision made with intentionality. Throughout your undergraduate experience, you’ll meet new people, prepare for a career, and gain a new depth of knowledge. 

The key, then, is to get the choice of a college right the first time. In doing so, you put yourself in the best position to find success both in the college admission process and the undergraduate years that follow.

As you consider colleges, then, begin by understanding that college fit is centered on your sense of self. How does each college you encounter measure up against these elements of a good fit? You need to be conscious of inconsistencies. Don’t settle for a college that only meets one or two criteria. It’s a compromise that could cost you later.


The Impacts of Not Thoughtfully Considering Your College Fit

Focusing on college fit matters. Consider the following: 

  • 41% of the students who enter college graduate in four years
  • Just under 38% of people over 25 hold a bachelor's degree

If you have made the decision to go to college and then don't to stay the course to graduate, you are losing time that could have been used to move you closer to an undergraduate degree or explore a career path. Not only must you absorb the tuition and fees associated with an additional year or so of education, but you must also wait longer to take advantage of your new earning potential. 

All of this isn’t to say that you must be absolutely and without-question certain of where you would like to attend college and that you aren’t allowed to change your mind. Let’s be real...you are human! Humans are allowed to change their minds, and very often in life, it is our mistakes that allow us to learn more about ourselves. While there are all kinds of reasons— personal, financial, and academic—to leave college prematurely, leaving because of fit is avoidable.

How to Know if a College is for You

If you're looking to for how to find the right college for you, read through these 5 factors to consider in a college.


1. Offers a program of study to match your interests and needs

What makes you happy? What do you enjoy? How do you spend your free time?

Odds are, there is a college out there that offers programs on what you love to learn about and work on.

If you have special accommodations, many colleges have whole departments and programs devoted to that.

Love D&D? Chess? Quidditch? Football? Your religion? There's tons of college out there with clubs and organizations where you can meet your people.

Make a list of the things you love. When you're exploring colleges, refer to this list and see if they have any clubs, activities, majors, and organizations that focus on them.

2. Provides a style of instruction that matches the way you like to learn

Not all colleges teach the same way. There's lecture-heavy classes, discussion-based classes, classes with lots of group projects, and more.

Large colleges tend to have more lecture-based classes, while small colleges tend to have more discussion-based classes.

For example, I was looking for a colleges that holds lots of small classes where students are actively a part of the discussion, so I chose a small college. I have friends that chose a large university partly because they learn best by listening.

It all depends on what vibes with you.

3. Provides a level of academic rigor to match your aptitude and preparation

This is important for a couple of reasons:

  1. It's a best practice to apply to colleges you are very likely, fairly likely, and less likely to get into, so you have a higher chance of acceptance
  2. You aren't super stressed out all of college, increasing your chances of graduating on time

Like with all things, there's a balance!

4. Offers a community that feels like home to you

Do you love the city life, or prefer the quiet of a small town? There's a college out there that fits what you're looking for.

5. Values you for what you have to offer

This final point can bear significant importance, especially if you’ll be applying for financial aid or hope to receive a merit scholarship. The institutions that have seen what you can do, and are prepared to invest in your further success, are the ones that will admit you and give you the support you need to achieve your goals.


What Your Best College Fit May Not Be

Still feeling stuck? It can be helpful to think about what you're not looking for in a college.

You also don't necessarily want to choose a college based on these factors:

  • The place that your significant other attends
  • The most highly ranked institution
  • The one with the most successful athletic program
  • The place your parents attended


Finally, don’t be surprised if you find more than one institution that seems to be a good fit for you. That’s great! Not only will you improve your odds of gaining admission to those colleges, but you are also more likely to stay once enrolled. And that’s a good thing!

To learn more about finding your best college fit, watch this webinar on the subject.


This article was originally published on June 10, 2020. It was updated on August 14, 2023 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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