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Find Your Fit

There is a lot of focus on college admissions: going on tours, buying sweatshirts and stickers for the car, making sure you have all the academic requirements. While that moment of stepping onto a campus and feeling a sense of belonging can’t be overlooked, it’s not the only factor to consider when thinking about long term success. Once the hard work of searching, narrowing down, applying, and receiving admissions notifications is done, a critical part of the process begins-where do you go?


Sometimes you get into your dream school and it all comes together. Other times, decisions are made for you. You don’t get in, you’re waitlisted; you get in, but you’re told you can’t go until the spring semester or NEXT fall. Sometimes you’re accepted but you don’t get the financial aid package you need. With these heartbreaks comes a real opportunity to think about what you want and need to set yourself up for a successful college transition.


The criteria outlined in this blog post is not exhaustive but can be used as a guide when taking stock of the options in front of you, blocking out the noise of what your friends are doing or what society deems acceptable, combatting choice fatigue, and honing in on what you really want and need in a college experience. You should customize these considerations based on your unique strengths, anticipated challenges, likes and dislikes, and known needs. Create your own self-assessment about who YOU are, what YOU need, and what will REALISTICALLY set you up for success.

Criteria to Consider:

1. Size:

  • Small-under 5,000 students

  • Medium-5,000-15,000 students

  • Large-over 15,000 students


How does size impact the experience?

  • Individualized attention

  • Anonymity

  • Available majors

  • Available courses

  • Class size

  • Resources

2. Location

  • Urban

  • Suburban

  • Rural

How can location impact the experience?


The type of campus has a huge impact on the social scene. Are you good at making connections or do you need more structure? If you need more structure, you might want to consider schools with a more enclosed campus rather than a place where the city is the campus. Or, if you prefer an urban setting be sure to identify clubs, organizations, or other structured social opportunities to join.

  • Do you want a campus or is the city your campus?

  • Employment/internship opportunities?

  • Noise, crowds, other stimuli?

  • Cultural opportunities?

  • Easy access to a city but escape to an enclosed campus?

  • Nature, outdoor activities, quiet?

3. Distance from home/Support system

  • Car ride

  • Train/bus ride

  • Plane ride

How can distance from home/support system impact the experience?


This is very personal and dependent on the type of support system you have at home and how prepared you are to be away from it. Will distance be good for you so you can’t escape home every weekend, or will it be nice to be closer so you have the option to go home for a night or two to get a break from campus?

4. Academic (Graduation Requirements, Rigor, etc.)

  • Language

  • Math

  • Required internship/co-op

  • Must pick a major upon enrollment

  • Available majors

  • In-person verses remote options

  • Additional academic support (tutoring, writing, success coaching)

How can academic factors impact the experience?


Are the social/emotional demands going to be more challenging for you and should you pick a school that won’t be as academically challenging? Are you more comfortable as a big fish in a small pond? Do you want the opportunity for an internship without it being a graduation requirement? Making decisions based on your unique challenges is not lowering the bar, it’s being realistic about where you need to grow and how you need to balance the demands so you can set yourself up for success.

5. Personal Considerations:

  • Stress Management, Coping Skills, Time Management, Organizational Skills

    • Will this be the most challenging for you? Think of these skills as just as important, if not MORE important than academic skills. If these are challenging, you may want to think about balancing it out with a school that will be less rigorous for you or where you have flexibility to take less classes/semester and ramp up.

  • Accommodations

    • It is tempting to try to shop around based on potential accommodations. However, the ADA is the standard that guides higher education disability services, and each institution will most likely have a similar request and documentation process.

Take some time to think about these, and any other considerations that may have an impact on your individual experience. Evaluate the schools you are deciding between against your unique criteria and see how each measures up. At the end of the day, you need to make the choice that feels right, and the goal is not to identify a school that checks every box-that school does not exist. But by going through this exercise, you will have educated yourself on what that school has to offer, and you will be able to anticipate potential challenges and prepare yourself.

Examples of Customized Criteria Checklists


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