Admit it: Outside of the academic arena, college students have ample free time. The confines of an extended school day, scheduled athletics and time spent participating in school clubs, all akin to high school life, exists differently on college campuses. Time outside of the classroom becomes a different canvas that aids in the social-emotional development of the student. Unlike academic fit, social fit can be a moving target as the student addresses the dynamics of each campus and determines how that will interrelate with their own personality. Crisp Consulting + Coaching offers the following suggestions for determining colleges of the best social fit:
The right place. Colleges are all connected to the city in which they reside and students should carefully consider the location of the college and the offerings of the surrounding environment. Schools such as Grinnell College and Centre College are located in small towns with populations less than 15,000. As a result, most social activities are focused on campus. Emory University and Skidmore College are both located in the suburbs of larger cities where students have access to the larger city amenities, while still being able to enjoy a slower pace life outside the city. Large cities host many college campuses including New York University, Occidental College and the University of Chicago where students find that these campuses are entwined into everyday urban life. Determine if you are best suited for a small town, the suburbs or a large metropolitan area when you begin your college research. This will aid you in find a great fitting school.
The right scene. College life includes essential activities and living situations outside of the classroom. Through student-life programs, students can continue to pursue many of the activities that they have always enjoyed, but they can also become involved in new activities through clubs, university-sponsored events and intramural sports. In addition, investigate each school’s housing policies to determine if undergraduate housing is guaranteed. Off-campus housing is a different social dynamic than that of an institution where the majority of students live on campus. Greek life and athletics also significantly shape a school experience. Washington and Lee University has a strong Greek presence while Wake Forest University has a community that emphasizes school spirit and support for athletic teams. If athletics is not critical, then American University, where football does not exist, may be a great option. Investigate housing and options for getting involved and determine their importance as you narrow your search.
The right size. Like academic fit, size also plays a critical role when determining social fit. Discovering the social situations in which you thrive will help you understand if you are better suited for a large research university like the University of Kentucky or a small liberal arts college like St. John’s College. Larger schools offer myriad social activities where large numbers of people are typically involved. Medium sized universities like Bucknell University or smaller liberal arts colleges like Davidson College may not offer as many activities, but will offer more intimate settings where students and faculty interact academically and socially. Examine the number of undergraduate students, the student-to-professor ratio and average class size. You can establish your best fit by assessing your preference for a large campus with ample offerings versus a smaller, more participatory environment.
Social development is a huge part of the undergraduate educational experience. Students spend many hours outside of the classroom interacting with peers and exploring their environment and these are important life skills to develop. Determining the best social fit will help determine college choices that will support your long-term goals.
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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 and admission success. As a former professor, administrator, and teacher, Brian has the knowledge and skills to counsel families in all aspects of educational planning.