Admit it: Admissions counselors, college tour guides and most families in the throws of the college search process are all discussing fit. Like a well-tailored pant, a school should fit your requirements and needs to develop as a whole person. At Crisp Consulting + Coaching we guide families in searching for schools that meet the best academic, social and financial fit, knowing colleges of the best fit will enhance a student’s experience and prepare the student for future success.
Last week, an exceptionally bright student from a suburb near Chicago asked, “Brian, how do I know if a school’s a good academic match when I have no idea what I want to study?” An undecided college major is not a deterrent in examining academic fit. Crisp Consulting + Coaching offers the following strategies to examine academic fit as you research colleges on your list.
The right size. A critical element of academic fit is size. Discovering your learning style will help you determine if you are suited for a large research university like The University of Michigan, or a smaller liberal arts college like Washington and Lee University. Examine the number of undergraduate students, the student-to-professor ratio and average class size. You can assess your fit by establishing your need for either a large lecture environment or small participatory class size.
The right core. Davidson College roots its graduation requirements in common courses that are required by all students. These courses are set in historical thought, literature, mathematics, social science, philosophical or religious perspectives, visual and performing arts and liberal studies. This core is much different than Brown University’s, The Brown Curriculum , which requires students to examine and design their own course of study during their time at the university. St John’s College utilizes The Great Books Program, where students engage in mandatory reading and discussion of poetry, theology, literature and philosophy. Ask yourself if you are a student who desires academic structure, or if you are a student that thrives with choice. This evaluation will assist you in selecting a college’s core curriculum.
The right rigor. The amount of time designated for studying and the challenges of the curricula are different at each undergraduate institution. Many parents and students confuse selectivity with academic rigor. Many of the most academically rigorous campuses also possess high acceptance rates. Centre College and Furman University have surprisingly high acceptance rates, yet, do not be fooled… a quick visit to a classroom and an examination of a few syllabi will quickly reveal that these schools are focused on developing critical and sharp minds, while engaging all students in experiential and interactive learning.
Choosing a school with the best academic fit is critical. Establishing a criteria for examining the learning and teaching styles of the community, while determining the best-suited course of study will help you construct a college application list of best-fitting schools. In addition, examine the intellectual life of a school’s graduate. Where are they working and how are they engaged in their communities? Critically, ask yourself if you can see yourself excelling in the classroom and achieving your future goals.
Brian D. Crisp is an independent educational consultant with Crisp Consulting + Coaching who works with families in Asheville, Charleston, Raleigh-Durham and Savannah to optimize and realize their unique educational fit for admissions success. As a former professor, administrator, and teacher, Brian has the knowledge and skills to counsel families in all aspects of educational planning.