As your student navigates through the college process, it is important for them to keep match and fit in mind. For the sake of clarity, when we talk about match, we are referring to academic factors. And when we discuss fit, that’s based off non-academic factors. Both build an ecosystem of support and success for a student to not only enroll in college, but also graduate successfully.
Finding fit typically comes after the student has narrowed a college list to include schools that are matches for them. Fit factors include the non-academic pieces that are important to students and their experience in college. Here are some guiding questions that you can use with your student so you can support of process of your student finding their fit:
What do you want from a college experience?
Discuss what is motivating your student to attend college. This conversation will clarify their desires for their college experience. Do they dream of the college experience that media portrays? Do they want a smaller, more personalized experience? Are certain types of divisions of athletics important? There are many ways to cross-sector this, but this should be a fun conversation talking about their dreams of the college experience.
What do you need from a college experience?
Remind your student to think “is this college ready for me?”. Depending on your student, they should seek schools that meet their needs when it comes to academic and non-academic support. Encourage them to reflect on the types of services that may support their success in college. Feel free to engage with college admission offices to understand on-campus offerings.
What type of community are you seeking?
Wants and needs begin to build a picture of the type of college community. You can segment school communities in so many ways for students. This includes schools founded to serve certain demographics of students. For example, HBCUs, TCUs, HSIs, women’s colleges, and religiously affiliated campuses. A student should also consider what they hope for as it relates to the types of students that attend the schools being considered. A college community will ideally surround your student for 2 or 4 years depending on the degree being sought.
What is your financial situation to ensure the college is affordable?
College is an investment, but one worth making in a smart way. It is important for your student to reflect on their financial situation when considering affordability. While you might not know every piece of what a college will offer you, a college’s cost calculator can start to build a picture of affordability for you. Also, insider tip: it is not always true that your final cost at a private school will be more expensive than a public school. So, don’t discount any school type based on what you believe to be true about the affordability. Typically, the lowest tuition rates will be at community and technical colleges. Meanwhile, the highest will be private schools. Remember that the types of financial aid and scholarships offered at these schools vary widely. Do the research so you can make an informed choice!
What is the importance of different factors?
Not every factor that we discussed will have equal weight. Encourage your student to consider what is most-to-least important and understand what is non-negotiable. This can look different for every student, but ultimately will support the student in finalizing a great college application list and making a final selection following admission decisions.
As your student’s family member or mentor, you know your student well and have context to help them in this self-exploration and decision making. Within Encourage, your student can explore key characteristics of college like size, location, and majors and understand important financial aspects of the experience like the cost of tuition, room and board, and other expenses.