How To Find The Right Fit For College

Your college bound student has most likely begun receiving brochures from colleges. Schools have also been speaking during their lunch periods. What your child will see and hear are the positive aspects about potential schools. But how do you know if college is the right fit for your son or daughter?

Before beginning the college search process, both the student and parent should sit down and discuss what each feels is important. Many times these ‘values’ will be different and need to be addressed. It is important for each person involved in the college search start on the same page. At first, it may be difficult to come to a consensus, but in the long run, it will save many difficult conversations. The following are topics families should discuss when beginning the college process.

Financial Fit

When a student begins the college selection process, it is essential to have an honest conversation regarding the family’s financial situation. It is imperative that the student understands how much money they will have to spend on their college education. This has a huge impact on the schools they will seriously consider. A parent will not love their child any less if they cannot afford one of the 151 colleges where the cost of attendance is over $50,000 a year. In addition, parents need to consider themselves too. They should NEVER borrow from their retirement accounts to pay for higher education. This may seem like a good short term solution, but in the long run, everyone will lose when it comes to a parent’s retirement.


On average, a student will attend a school that is 94 miles or about 2-4 hours away from home. Many times, students will want to attend a college that is farther away. But is this practical? There are many factors that go into attending school far away.

First off, does the student want a very long car, train or plane ride to travel to and from school on breaks/weekends? These factors cost money such as: extra gas, mileage on a car, or parents driving the student long distances. If a student is taking a plane, there are other factors that are not realized until later. How often is it practical for the student to come home? Only on breaks? Consider that these breaks are during the expensive holiday rush. Will they be able to come home for a big family occasion? When taking a plane, a student cannot pack much. They most likely will have to purchase supplies when they arrive at college. This can include bed sheets, clothes, school supplies, laptop, toiletries, etc… Once the academic year is over, how will these possessions return home?

Consider blending the financial and location considerations together. If you are attending a public school, you might be paying out-of-state tuition. This will be considerably more expensive for the family.

Where does the student want to begin their career once college is over? Is your college is in a different geographic area then your home? Internships, business connections and other networks might not follow them home for future job opportunities.

Academic fit

It is important to look at schools in which the student will have a reasonable chance of admission. Most colleges report median ACT/SAT scores and GPAs on their promotional materials. Do not be put off if the student does not fall into these ranges. Remember, it is the middle 50% of students who were ACCEPTED that is reported.

Not all students who are accepted attend the school. Secondly, that data means there were 25% of students who scored above and below those numbers. In addition, many schools look at a student’s admission holistically. This means that colleges consider more than standardized test scores and GPAs. Perhaps the student has a special skill the college needs, such as a bagpiper player or an equestrian rider. These students might be considered more valuable to the school, so those skills could overshadow lower standardized test scores.

Remember, students still have the application process to help themselves shine. Perhaps their essays or interview will impress the admissions committee. Maybe you have demonstrated your interest in the school by attending an open house, filling out a card at a college fair, or contacting the admissions office for clarification on an issue. Another way to bolster your chances of acceptance is to apply to a school in a different geographic region. For example, your chances can be helped if you are from the Midwest and apply to an East Coast school that does not traditionally have a large representation.

Social Fit

What kind of school would the student be most successful attending? A large school with 15,000 or more students? Here, there are a plethora of majors to consider if they enter undecided. In addition, a student might experience the independence they are ever so seeking.

Perhaps your student would succeed at a medium sized school (5,000-15,000 students). Here, a student could still receive the large school atmosphere, but also not be overwhelmed by a sizeable campus.

Maybe a small school, with enrollment at or below 5000 students, would be best. Here, a student may find professors who are willing to take a personal interest in them. Students can also have program advisors to help guide their academic situations while personally knowing each student in their academic programs.

Thomas J. Jaworski will be the guest speaker at Resurrection College Prep High School’s Parent Club meeting on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 7 pm in the school library.
Thomas Jaworski is the lead consultant of Quest College Consulting. He is an Independent College Counselor with over ten years experience in the college admission process as an Certified Illinois Teacher (Type 09) and Counselor (Type 73) while also a member of IECA and NACAC. For more information, you can visit his website at or email him at Follow him on Twitter @Tom_QuestCC or on Facebook at

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