Admissions Officer Insight: Find Your College Fit

Don’t know where to start your research for ranking colleges? Colorado College Admission Counselor Skyler Paltell gave us her tips for finding the best college fit for you. 

Skyler Paltell, Colorado College, Admission Counselor

High school seniors around the country are wrapping up their college searches and swapping road trips in favor of college applications. But, in the frenzy of application season and the pressure to gain acceptance to colleges, students often forget the importance of fit when it comes to selecting a college. The best way to ensure your college search process results in a great fit college is to thoroughly research schools that interest you, so that come May, you’re off to a college that suits both your academic and personal preferences.

Below, I’ve listed a few of the most helpful college characteristics to research and consider when choosing colleges to apply to:

  • Size. Are you the type of student who feels more at home in a large classroom, or in a small seminar-style discussion? The size of the school you attend will likely determine the type of learning environment you encounter; if you’re looking for large lectures and you love being a part of a big crowd, a larger institution might be for you. What works best for you? What feels most comfortable when you visit campus? That’s going to be a big indicator for the type of institution that suits you best.
  • Majors and Academic Programs. What are you hoping to study? If you know you want a comprehensive, generalized foundation across disciplines, a liberal arts college may be the best fit for the type of education you’re seeking; on the flip side, if you’re looking to become a nurse or a mechanical engineer, a research university or technical education may best suit your needs. Don’t know what you want to study? That’s fine too! Look for a college that allows you to declare your major at the end of your freshman or sophomore year.
  • Fit. The best way to determine fit at a specific college or university is to spend a day on campus, take a class (when possible), and speak to current students. Are these people you think you can connect with? Does the overall atmosphere of campus reflect your approach to education and your goals for your college experience? Simply being on campus can often give you a “gut feeling” that says a lot about your comfort level in a specific environment. College is a place to earn your degree, yes, but it’s also going to be the place you call home for the next four years. Considering the intangible factors of fit—atmosphere, activities, location—can go a long way in selecting the best college for you and easing the initial transition from high school to college.
  • Location. Finally, research a variety of locations that interest you: big city, small town, close to home, or hundreds of miles away. The college search process is a lot of fun in that you get to choose where you’ll be spending the next few years of your life. Is there a city that you’ve always wanted to visit, or a type of environment that you’ve always felt at home in? This is a great time to visit colleges in that area and get a feel for the location. For me, personally, I grew up in a big city and knew I wanted to experience life in a smaller, suburban, or rural environment. That decision went a long way in tailoring my college search process.

Researching the schools you apply to now is important for the ultimate outcome of your search process later. Determining the comfort level, opportunities available, and social environment of the schools you apply to is especially important for those students applying through binding admission processes, because you’re going to want to feel successful and comfortable at the school you ultimately attend. Doing the research early on and understanding the process and the student experience at your chosen colleges will eliminate stress later on and allow you to fully enjoy the excitement that comes with the conclusion of the college search process.

– Skyler Paltell, Admission Counselor, Colorado College