Jill Haley: Finding the best fit when picking a college | TheUnion.com

Jill Haley: Finding the best fit when picking a college

Jill Haley
Columnist

There is a lot of talk about finding the best fit when it comes to picking a college, but what does this mean? I believe that the best fit for a student would be one that matches their academic, social, and financial needs.

The first thing that usually comes up in the discussion of best fit is academics. Students should research the different majors a college offers. If they are undecided on a major, research the areas of interest they are interested in. For instance, if they love the humanities, pick a college that has strong departments in English, languages and history.

Students should also check out the teaching style and whether it reflects the way they best learn. A student who does well in high school with hands-on learning might do poorly at a lecture based, exam only college. They might also excel at a college like Cal Poly San Louis Obispo, who prides themselves on their project based learning approach.

Another factor to consider is the rigor and competitiveness of the college. If a student thrives on competition and rigorous academic conditions, a school like UC Berkeley could be ideal. If a student prospers in a more collaborative environment, a small liberal arts college might fit the bill. Regardless of how best you learn, the program of study should meet your needs.

A student and their families should also see if the college is the right social fit for them. As we all know, college is much more than just academics and students must feel good at college to do well academically.

Is this a college where I feel they fit in? Is there a sense of community? Do students have the same values and interests? These are important questions students should be asking themselves when deciding on a college.

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The cost of college is not usually the student's first consideration, but it may be the parents'.

Being smart about choosing the right college at the right price is important. Students and parents can get an estimate of what their financial aid eligibility might be by completing the FAFSA4caster on the US Department of Education's website.

One of the biggest mistakes I see is parents telling their child to "find the right college and we will try and figure the money part out."

Parents often overestimate their financial ability to pay for college. Many families are forced to take out loans to finance their child's education. This is an important decision because loans may impact a parent's ability to retire or live comfortably in post-retirement life.

Not knowing the total cost of the college they will be attending is a common mistake. Look at not just the tuition costs, but also things like room and board and transportation costs.

Finding the right college which is an academic, social and financial fit takes a lot of work, but it is worth it in the end. Remember that each is important in helping a student meet their goals.

Jill Haley is a retired high school counselor who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at http://www.getyouintocollege.com or jillncca@gmail.com.

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