Capstone College and Career Advising

The right college fit test

June 1st, 2015 by

By: Wedndy David-Gaines

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Finding the right college fit can seem like searching for a needle in a higher education haystack. That’s because there are over four thousand colleges to choose from, a host of different college ranking lists offering various opinions, and plenty of marketing information from colleges for students and their parents to sift through. No wonder it’s easy to get distracted by brand names and media hype. Families can cut to the chase with their own right college fit test.

Students are standardized test veterans. They can flip their experience to find the highest scoring colleges according to student standards. Composing and using the same questions make it easier to compare and rate college answers. Focusing on the most important aspects to achieve student success best demonstrates how well schools measure up to student requirements. College responses including statistics should refer to those similar to the students’ own demographics.

The performance section delves into what the college offers to ensure undergrads graduate on time and with the lowest amount of debt. What academic/financial support, tutoring, advising, and retention services are there to make sure their scholars stay on track? What is the college’s own track record or retention rate for retaining freshmen to continue into their sophomore year? What is the college’s graduation rate? What is the average student debt for graduates?

The preparation section is about how well the academic and extracurricular choices ready the student for self-supporting independence. When must students declare their major? What is the access and availability for prerequisite/requisite/elective courses and advisors for different fields of study? How many students have internships/jobs, in what fields and what year of study? What unique programs does the school offer and how many can partake that would be a resume wow for participating students? What is the employment rate and types of jobs for graduates in the field the student is most interested? Or going on to graduate school? What career services are available to current students and alumni?

The placement section concerns college characteristics that suit student needs, qualifications and comfort level. Investigate college location, size and endowment funds because these can determine weather, facilities and opportunities. Also review college admission requirements/rate as a baseline to gauge acceptance prospects. What are the on/off campus safety measures and systems? What is the relationship between the college and local community? What are the transportation options on/off campus and to/from home? Whatever it’s size, what does the college do to make its students feel they are the priority? What special programs with businesses and other colleges does the school offer? What are the room and board, clubs and activities, events and attendance particulars? Describe the college’s culture, student body and unique features.

A lot of the answers can be found on the federal government’sCollege Navigator site. Students can find the rest of the information by asking College Admission Officers and going to see the school and the neighboring community. If something special and personal to the student will make or break attendance, add the question to the test. Also, continue to test schools as time passes because student interests often change over time. After tallying the test results, students will be able to see which schools are their right fit colleges.

Store this next tip for the future. The list is about best chances for success. Once students get on campus they have to do their part and avail themselves of the college resources they valued so much it was on the test.