College Search: How to Find Your Best College Fit

March 02, 2017

Although current seniors may be wrapping up their college applications, high school juniors are starting their search for the best college fit and deciding what schools to add to their college lists.

With over 2,000 four-year private and public institutions in the U.S., how do you figure out which college is the best fit for you? Here are the top criteria to help you decide what’s most important to you when you choose a college:

Costs and Scholarships

This is one of the biggest concerns for students considering college. Talk to your parents about the financial costs of going to college, and be realistic about what you can afford. Keep in mind that a lot of private and public universities offer financial aid, so don’t completely rule them out. Just have the expectation that you may have to take out loans, or be on top of your scholarship search.

Questions you should be asking:

  • How much does tuition cost, on average, per year? How about room and board?
  • What financial aid packages do schools offer? In what forms (need-based, merit-based, etc)?

Potential Major

Not every university will offer the same academic programs. If you want to study something specific, make sure you do your research to figure out which universities offer the programs you’re looking for.

Questions you should be asking:

  • What do you want to study? Does the school offer your specialty?
  • Are there interesting dual degree programs? Can you design your own course of study?
  • Are the classes taught by professors or graduate students (TAs)? How much does that even matter?
  • Are there internships or research opportunities available?

Student Life

Study body is extremely important, because it not only represents the people you will be attending college with and learning from, but your peers will eventually also become your alumni professional network. Plus, college is about meeting new people and self-discovery, so you want to make sure you’re in the best environment for you to thrive.

Questions you should be asking:

  • What are you looking for in a student body? Use our 5-adjective test to figure out the type of people you want to have as classmates.
  • What extracurriculars are there on campus?
  • What can students do to enjoy their free time? What are the different types of social opportunities available?
  • What are the dorms like? Does the school’s housing policy impact how cohesive the student body is?
  • How is the surrounding college town? Do students seek out off-campus opportunities to get involved in the community?

Class Size

There are colleges with 200 people per graduating class, and there are big universities with at least 8,000 students per year. Depending on the popularity and course offerings of your academic program as well, your class size and instruction style will range from lecture halls with hundreds of students to small discussion seminar groups. Be honest with yourself about what is the best learning environment for you.

Questions you should be asking:

  • What medium of learning works best for you? Are you better with intimate one-on-one critical thinking sessions? Are you a more hands-on practical learner? Or would you be able to cut it in a primarily audial information processing lecture?
  • Do you want to develop certain skills while in school, such as speaking up more or having the opportunity to lead and present a project? Consider the types of classes that will allow you to pursue these goals.
  • While a ton a emphasis is put on student to teacher ratio, what’s more important are opportunities to connect with your professors one-on-one. What are professor office hour policies? Do students generally have solid relationships with their professors?

Location

There are rural, suburban and urban colleges. More so than any other criteria on this list, this is completely a personal preference. It is based on what you enjoy doing in your free time and what environment you enjoy being in.

Questions you should be asking:

  • Do you like the quintessential college campus setting where most social activities occur on campus?
  • Do you enjoy the hustle and bustle of a city? Or do you find it distracting?
  • Do you want to experience a regional culture that’s different from the one you grew up with?
  • Do you want to participate in off-campus activities that can bolster your academic curriculum? Is the school located in a city that allows for that?
  • Are you looking to pursue internship/externship opportunities in college?
  • Do you want to have a car on campus? If not, is the campus walkable and/or is the public transportation sufficient to get around easily?

Weather

Seasonal depression is real. Some people simply do not like cold or rainy winters. If the weather climate affects your mood and has been known to impact your ability to motivate yourself and be productive, make sure you take this into account!

Questions you should be asking:

  • Do you like having the variety of all 4 seasons?
  • Do you prefer the cold or the heat?
  • Have you experienced all types of climates? And, if not, do you want to?

Applying to college?
View the app files and essays of accepted students.
LEARN MORE

Once you’ve run all of your potential colleges through these criteria, you should have a better sense of what colleges you’d like to apply to and the specific reasons each one stands out to you. Good luck, and happy searching!

About The Author

Frances Wong
Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.

 




Browse Successful Application Files

rodmoretti
Princeton ‘19


Accepted to Columbia, GA Tech, Northwestern, Princeton, UGA

As a part of Princeton Class of 2019, I know how difficult the application process is...I got denied, accepted, and wait-listed to several places. Let me help you find your path to success!
lmelcher
Columbia ‘20


Accepted to Columbia, Brown, UPenn, Rice, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UVA, UC Davis, UCSD, UCSC, USC

Hey! I'm a John Jay Scholar at Columbia, and I'm from Los Angeles. I'm planning to major in Art History and do ballet and theater. Hope I can help!
niathuravil
Rutgers ‘20


Accepted to Rutgers, NYU, Fordham, UMass, Colorado, MSU, Illinois, Arizona, Washington

Your local political astronaut with a passion for the prolific things in life.
StanfordBaeAre…
Stanford ‘20


Accepted to Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCSD, UCLA, UC Davis

I am a Frosh at Stanford studying studying engineering (computer science or other types) with a (possible) minor in the humanities. Go Trees!!!

New Posts

Student Insight: How to Approach Transferring Colleges
Student Insight: How to Approach Transferring Colleges
January 09, 2018

Not sure if your current university is the best school for you? Consider your transfer options. No one really expects to go through the application process again after senior year in high school. But things...

How To Succeed on MCAT Test Day
How To Succeed on MCAT Test Day
January 05, 2018

Stressed out about your upcoming MCAT? Our friends at Magoosh will help you through MCAT Test Day! You’ve prepared for the MCAT for months, you’ve selected the right date for you—and it’...

Brown University Class of 2022 Results Released
Brown University Class of 2022 Results Released
December 21, 2017

Brown University admits 738 early decision applicants from the largest early admission application pool Brown has had since the early application program started 16 years ago. The 738 students who received good news from Brown make up 21.1% of...

Cornell University Welcomes 1,533 Students to the Class of 2022
Cornell University Welcomes 1,533 Students to the Class of 2022
December 20, 2017

Universities share record-breaking statistics every year when it comes to college applications and this year was no different at Cornell University. Cornell University continued to break two different records three years in a row. Earlier...

Load More Posts