Finding the Right College Fit For You
We help students and their families with planning for college. We aim to provide a transparent resource that allows you to better understand the choices you're making, and how those choices will impact your final college bill. When it comes down to the nitty gritty, the student is going to bear responsibility for paying for college eventually, so the decisions you make now can either really help, or really hurt your bill after graduation. So often we see students fall in love with a school, and get stuck on that school, and end up regretting the decision because of how much more it ends up costing in the long run.
Today we want to talk about aspects that make a college the "right fit" for you.
Financial Fit - The College Money Talk
THE MOST important factor to consider when shopping around for colleges is whether or not its a financial fit for you and your family situation. We often talk about what we call "The College Money Talk." This is essentially the conversation that kicks off everything. How are you (or we) going to pay for college? This is often under looked when a student visits or researches a dream school.
We like to put it this way, let's say Susie needs a car.
Susie has $500 cash and is ready to rock. She sees a Porsche convertible and says "That's it. That's the one I want."
That's what often happens when a student falls in love with a school. Whether it be because of their athletic facility, the academics, the parties, whatever is most important to your student, a student can get hooked on a college and think they don't have another option.
We encourage students and parents to have real, transparent conversations about paying for college, how living out of state can change cost, how student loans work, and all aspects of paying for college, because if you don't, you could end up with a resentful grad. The more transparent the better, because you need to determine your budget and means of paying BEFORE you start applying for colleges.
Here are a few things to think about with regard to financial fit.
How much money do you and your family have saved for college?
Will you qualify for needs-based financial aid?
Do you plan to live on campus?
How much in student loans are you willing to take out?
Will you qualify for any scholarships or grants?
Will you be considered "in state" or "out of state?"
You may already know what you want to get your degree in, or maybe you're preparing to enter college undeclared. Understanding what's important to your academics goes beyond whether or not the college provides your major (or possible majors). Going away to a large campus could seem like an ideal getaway for some students, whereas some students (and parents) may prefer the idea of them commuting to classes and staying at home.
Just because your cousin went to college somewhere and got a degree in engineering and has a great job doesn't mean that will be the right fit for you. Every individual has specific needs and wants that are special to them, and academics are no different.
Think about things like the size of your class. Would you prefer a large lecture hall? Or personal, closer knit classrooms? Do you enjoy being a part of competition amongst your peers academically? Do you prefer to work alone or with groups? Does the school you're considering offer that "backup" major that you could see yourself changing to?
Finding the right college for your academic fit starts with looking inward at yourself as a student and determining what and how you like to learn, and what you're willing to pay for.
Ok, now the fun part. Social fit is not the MOST important "fit factor" to consider, but that doesn't mean it's not important! A college can be affordable and academically perfect for a student, but if they don't want to be there, or it doesn't give them inspiration and fulfillment, it's not a good fit. When a student imagines their perfect college scenario, they may base it off what they heard or saw on TV or in movies, but ultimately they need to like the college experience for it all to work out. If a student is devoted to their faith, they probably won't enjoy a school known for parties. Students should feel at home on campus and in class settings. Finding friends looks different to every student.
How important is diversity on campus to you? Do you care whether or not the football team is good? Do you care about social issues? Do you like a city style campus or a peaceful outdoorsy campus? Do you see yourself joining a frat or sorority? Consider all the social aspects of college, from the sports facilities, to the dining facilities, to the dorms, college is much more than just going to class!
It's important to remember that being proactive in these decisions and understanding what's most essential to your college experience can significantly help your chances of college success. It's also important to note that you could think a school checks all 3 boxes mentioned above, and find out a few days in it just wasn't what you thought. That's ok! You can always transfer! Ultimately college is an investment in your future, so you should pay for what you feel best sets you up for financial success after college.
If you or someone you know is struggling with figuring out where, what, or how you're going to go to college, give us a call or fill out our contact form! We have a team ready to serve every aspect of college planning!