College Fit Factors
We talk a lot to high school students about finding a college/university that is the right “fit” for them in terms of academics, size, location, etc. As you look at applicants, do you and your staff also look at “fit” of applicants? If so, what kinds of things go into judging “fit” — and how can applicants better explain why they think they would be a perfect fit for your school?
Fit is one of those things that’s vital for both the applicant and the school. If you feel that one or two colleges in particular would be the perfect match for you, then your task is to showcase that fit to each school’s admissions staff. For some, academic fit is most crucial, but there are numerous other types of fit, so do your research on the schools — and articulate your findings in your application.
Here are the answers to this question from each member of our panel:
Karen Guastelle, Sacred Heart University
To me, “fit” is the most important part of the college process. Beginning with a list of attributes that a student is looking for in a school is a terrific way to begin to narrow the search. However, the best, and in my opinion, the only way to determine “fit” is to visit the schools where the student has an interest. Judging “fit” is a gut feeling. However, I do know that students need some concrete factors to base it on. Therefore, I recommend a campus tour with a student, an interview with an admission counselor, a meeting with a faculty member in their major and a meeting with an advisor/coach if there is an activity that the student would like to continue to participate while in college i.e. meet with the band director if the student wants to play in the band — be sure there is good synergy between the student and the director and that the student likes the band director’s philosophy.
When we judge “fit” we look primarily at academics. We ask ourselves, based upon the classes the student has taken, their grades in college-prep classes and their test scores as well as recommendations will they be successful here? The success of the student is paramount in our decision making. We have a good deal of research to determine academic success and believe it is fair to a student to ensure their academic success. In judging “fit” we also look at the student’s activity with the college/university they are applying to. What has the student done to let us know that we will also be a good “fit” for them? For example, have they visited the campus, met with an admissions counselor, met an admissions counselor at their local college fair or during a high school visit? In addition, we also know that students who become involved in clubs, organizations, community service and athletics do the best at our institution and persist through to graduation. When we recruit students, we are looking to recruit graduates so we review carefully to be sure that the student has both the academic and student life background to not only be admitted as a freshman, but to walk across the stage at graduation four years later with a terrific job waiting for them.
Tracy Manier, St. Edward’s University
Spending time researching and learning about an institution is the best way for an applicant to articulate fit. When a prospective student understands the culture of an institution, the educational mission, or the social climate, they can best understand how they might fit in and be happy. So when we evaluate applicants, we like to see students clearly articulate why they want to attend St. Edward’s. The depth of their answer often contributes to our understanding of a student’s future success.
Clearly, all colleges want to attract students who will be happy, successful and contribute positively to the campus environment. Many of these fit assessments are subjective — to articulate them is to immerse oneself in the nuance of what makes a particular school what it is — educationally, culturally, historically and socially.
Jay Murray, Marist College
Fit is one of those things that is really tough for us to judge. We do not offer interviews at Marist College so we never really “know” the applicants. When reviewing the application we can get a general idea about how good a match the student will be based upon where the student is from, what they want to study and the other schools they are applying. A student’s essay is a good place for them to tell us why they think they would be a fit. We judge the seriousness of a student by looking at how closely the student has researched the college. A student who writes about how they want to go to college and become anonymous in large lecture would not be a good fit for a medium/small school like Marist College.
Karen Copetas, Western Washington University
As a university with just under 13,000 students and 150 academic programs, we find that a lot of students are a good “fit” for Western, so that is generally not a large factor in our admissions decisions. However, in a limited number of cases, we students’ academic interest can play a role in our admissions decision. For instance, if a student expresses exclusive and/or overwhelming interest in an academic program we do not offer, such as architecture or nursing, that may be one factor in our decision not to offer admission. Conversely, if a student shows an exceptionally high level of interest in an area that Western specializes in — vehicle research design, environmental studies, interdisciplinary education, etc. — that may be one factor in our decision to offer admission. We know that most students change their minds about what they want to study, so most of our admissions decision is based on overall academic performance and preparation.
Daniel C. Walls, Emory University
Admission committees are clearly interested in fit, particularly academic fit. If an admitted student is not capable academically this could lead to a student leaving the university or being unhappy. Beyond academic fit, there is certainly an interest in students who will contribute to the life of the campus. Emory seeks students who have made an impact in their communities, and who will contribute and enrich the campus.
Back to our main page: Answers to Common College Admissions Questions.
Get More College Planning Resources
Quintessential Careers is your source for college, careers, and job-search information, resources, tools, and links. Go to our Go to College — College Planning Resources section.
Maximize your career and job-search knowledge and skills! Take advantage of The Quintessential Careers Content Index, which enables site visitors to locate articles, tutorials, quizzes, and worksheets in 35 career, college, job-search topic areas.