So many colleges, so little time

With so many choices, how can students make the right decision about where to go to college?

So many colleges, so little time

The college selection process is not just about getting into college, but remaining there. Making the proper choice the first time around assures greater success for graduation in the future. So how do you guide your students to finding the right college for them? Just as there are characteristics which distinguish each student, the same is true for colleges. 


The best fit college

The phrase, “best fit” college, is relevant in choosing a higher education setting. Which school will be meaningful academically, emotionally, socially and spiritually? While both affordability and academic offerings are important to both students and their parents, they should consider the following features in weighing the options as carefully as possible: 

Learning style and interests

Rigor of curriculum

Average class size

Geographic location 

Size of school 


Retention/graduation rates

Faculty: student ratio 

Student support services

Study abroad opportunities

Campus culture


By making oneself open to all the possibilities a college has to offer one can then begin to explore each college as objectively as possible. Adopting an honest, self-reflective approach will help the student identify what factors are most important in cultivating an initial list of colleges that meet his or her specifications. 

First, they should explore their learning style. Does the student acknowledge difficulty working independently or reading lengthy passages by a deadline? If so, they may require smaller settings and quiet to learn effectively and a smaller teacher-to-student ratio. 

Secondly, exploring the campus culture and determining what clubs, sports, cultural events and activities are available is important. Are there service learning opportunities, an ROTC program, and spiritual or faith based offerings? Lastly, how social are they they and is this of importance? Some schools are very tight-knit, others are not. If many students live off campus, the school could lack the feeling of togetherness. Or, your student may be a free-spirit and relish autonomy.


Creating the ultimate list

Refining their list by weighing the pros and cons of each schools is the final step. They should eliminate schools that lack characteristics they desire. The ultimate list should include the following: 

Schools whose requirements surpass a student’s individual profile (reach)

Schools that match their individual profile (target) 

Schools where their profile exceeds the requirements of the school (safety). 


Ultimately, two or three schools for each category will constitute a strategic, well-balanced list. Most importantly, their demonstrated interest in a school is crucial. Visiting the campus, connecting with students and admissions, planning an overnight and interviewing with alumni are necessary points of contact. Pursuing schools will not only help with their decision making, but will determine the “best fit” applicant in the eyes of the admissions officers and assure the “best fit” institution for the student.  


Dorine Russo, The Collegeologist, is an independent college consultation practice which simplifies the college process for students and parents in the Farmington Valley area of Connecticut. Visit her at

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