Find the Right College: How Do You Know a School Is a Good Fit?
Is there such a thing as one perfect school for your student? Finding the right mix of academics, financial help, and culture can be like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
Fortunately, it’s not really like that.
There are a lot of schools out there, and there are far more than just one good fit. Don’t stress out about finding the one golden school. As you try to find the right college, you just need to find a good fit.
Finding the Right Fit College
Honors Programs for Bright Students
Some parents are concerned that the school might be dominated by students that are not as bright as their kids. While this may come off as arrogant, it’s important for kids at every level to be both challenged and encouraged in their education.
Make sure you look at the right measures when deciding if a school is a good fit for your bright student. In particular, average GPA and test scores are not a good measure.
Many geniuses in history have struggled with tests and grades, which do not always measure intelligence. Also, different high schools report GPA differently and have different course difficulty. And a high-school GPA does not necessarily equate to college success.
Instead, look for honors programs, excellent graduation rates, the right majors, internships, and credit for AP classes. Remember that your student will learn much more than facts and figures. There are social skills, communication skills, self-discipline, and much more to discover.
Make sure you look for the right metrics as you find the right college for your bright child.
The Right Class and Campus Size
Is your student interested in a huge school, or a small one? This question can make a big difference in what college is best for your child.
The right size of school is a very individual question. Just because your student went to a small high school doesn’t mean they should attend a small college. At the same time, a large college is even more anonymous than a large high school.
Your child will probably have an idea which he or she prefers. However, only a college visit will give you a real feeling for what the school is like. If you go, make sure you and your student are armed with the right questions to ask of the tour guide and any school official you meet with.
One of the members in our Paying For College 101 Facebook group suggested:
“Visit the school and try to make an appointment with the department chair for his major. Let him form an opinion about whether he thinks it would be a good fit for him. They may even have an opportunity for him to sit in on a class in his major. Give it a try.”
If you notice that the classes are huge and it makes your child uncomfortable, move on. On the other hand, the feeling of independence could be freeing and allow your student to meet many more people with similar interests.
Another factor that many families forget about is whether the school is a “commuter school,” where almost everyone lives off campus. If that’s the case and your child wants to live on campus, they will be alone on many weekends and holidays. That may not be a good fit!
Great Graduation and Placement Rates
If you notice a school has a poor graduation rate, you probably want to skip it. Even if your student is bright and intending to graduate, being around a lot of other people who don’t have those priorities can drag them down.
It’s also vital to notice the placement rate for the specific major your student is aiming for.
Some more great advice from the Paying For College 101 group:
“Check with the career placement office to see how many internships/permanent job offers the students in that major have received/been exposed to.”
Also, find out if most students finish school in the regular four-year span, and if many take longer, why? School is expensive enough without unnecessary delays costing your child extra years of tuition.
Don’t assume delays are due to others’ laziness – sometimes class schedules are set up where it’s hard to finish requirements in four years. Or, there could be one or two significant classes that are difficult to get into. When you dig below the surface, you may be surprised what you find.
Find the Right College With Help Today
It can be a struggle to sort through the thousands and thousands of colleges that are out there. Many of them could be a good fit for your student.
Sometimes you just need help.
We can help you sort through schools that work for your family. We have resources to choose the most generous schools regarding financial aid, as well as helping you discover the academic and social details of each college.
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