In this page:

  • Academic fit
  • Intellectual fit
  • Social/cultural fit

What is “fit”?

"Fit" means a few different things:

  • Academic fit
  • Intellectual fit
  • Social/cultural fit

For a more detailed list on how to determine fit, see How to make a college list.

Academic fit

With academic fit, your student’s academic goals and strengths should match those of the students at the school. See "Safety," "Match," and "Reach" to learn more about what a good match is. 

Shouldn’t my kid go to an Ivy (or MIT, or Stanford, or Oxford)?

Students are best off going to a school where they will thrive and, ideally, be noticed by the faculty.  At a small school, being noticed may mean being in the top 25 percentile, while at a huge school it may mean being in the top 1 percentile. At HYPSM, everyone is a star student. It will be tough to be noticed by the faculty at one of the elite schools. That said, if the attributes your student wants match up with those offered by HYPSM and your student has the qualifications to make them an attractive candidate, then by all means apply.

You want your student to succeed. Don’t set them up for failure by “getting them into” HYPSM at all costs.

When all is said and done, fit should trump prestige … every time. 

Intellectual fit

Make sure your student chooses a college where your student's way of thinking will not be out of place. If your student is a competitive high-achiever, she would probably not be comfortable at a school with no grades and/or a party atmosphere. If your student is one who enjoys lots of extracurriculars and wants to have time in college to pursue those, she wouldn’t be comfortable at a high-stress, competitive school. If your student is a "big thinker" who likes to talk about big issues, she would do best in a place with a lot of collaboration and discussion. 

Social/cultural fit

One of the most important factors in choosing a college is whether your student will be comfortable in the culture of the school and thrive there. At a large school, it isn't even necessary to be comfortable with the culture of the whole school, as long as there is a large enough subculture that fits—like an honors college at a large state school.

Think about what the culture is like at the school your student is interested in. If she’s not religious, she shouldn’t apply to an overly religious school. If she’s not a partier, she shouldn’t apply to a school with a strong reputation for drinking and drugging. If she’s a southerner from a small town, she might not fit into life at a metropolitan school in the northeast. When she visits, she should think about the “feel” of the school. Can she see herself living, making friends, and thriving there?