College Fit: What College Is Best For You?
By Dr. Gina La Monica
As a long-time college administrator, high school counselor, and tenured professor, I have advised many students and families on how to identify what college would work best for them. Researching colleges, especially if you are unfamiliar with the intricacies of higher education, can be a very intimidating task. There are thousands of colleges in all shapes and forms vying to get your business all stating to be the best in what they do – educating students. The key is finding the right fit.
The first step in this grand feat is to complete a college preference assessment that will identify what is important to your child during his/her college years. In my practice, I give my clients a questionnaire to help narrow down what colleges would be best for them. The questionnaire asks about culture, size of the institution, student activities, geographical preferences, academic programs, study abroad, religious preference, housing, etc. After reviewing the extensive questionnaire, I can narrow down colleges that best fit the client. The following link is an example of a college fit questionnaire: https://www.niche.com/about/college-quiz
Another major factor to consider when selecting a college is the student’s career pathway. What the student would like to do professionally is of utmost importance on what colleges I will suggest for him/her. For example, if the student wants to be a petroleum engineer, then it is essential that the college of choice has an excellent engineering program that specializes in petroleum. Some colleges are referred to as “liberal arts colleges,” which offer a general breadth of courses and degrees, whereas others are more specialized, such as Cal Poly (SLO), which are known for their STEM programs.
Once the student knows their major or career path, it is vital to then peruse the college’s catalog to review the course offerings and faculty members’ background and specialization. You do not want to attend a college that does not have courses that interest you or your specialization. For example, if you want to major in computer science specifically cybersecurity, make sure the college has classes within this emphasis. Review the professors’ degrees and work experience. Furthermore, find out if the department has a specific accreditation associated with your major. For instance, a computer science department should be accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC) or the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
Public colleges versus private institutions do differ in what they offer to the students. I attended both types of universities; my undergraduate degree was from a public college while my graduate degrees were from private schools. Public colleges are generally cheaper than their private counterpart because they are partially if not fully funded by the government. However, private schools are now becoming more competitive by matching tuition to sway students to their university. Class sizes are usually smaller at the private institutions and faculty availability is much more prevalent. Therefore, if you want a more intimate, engaging learning experience, a private college would be the preferred choice. With most private colleges having a huge endowment, they can afford many amenities that public colleges cannot including higher-quality housing and classrooms facilities, more staff and faculty assistance, superior student support services, and greater availability of extracurricular activities.
As you start your college search, create a list of all the factors that are important to you. Take a college fit survey to further discover what the perfect college would look like. Thereafter, search the internet for colleges that match this description.
The website of the week listed below is a valuable resource for narrowing down your college list. Try to keep your college list to fewer than 10-15 schools, otherwise, the college admission process will be even more difficult with the number of applications and essays you will have to write. College tours either virtual or in person are imperative to obtain a better feel for the college culture. The more time you spend researching the schools, the more knowledgeable you will be in finding the ideal college. Paying for your college education will be one of the most expensive investments you will make in your life, and there are no refunds or money back guarantees. Do not rush this process. Take the time to do the work and you will reap the benefits of an incredible education.
Website of the Week: https://www.niche.com/colleges/search/all-colleges/
Dr. Gina La Monica has a Doctorate in Education and has worked as a high school counselor, college administrator, and professor at many universities and colleges including the University of California, Los Angeles, California Lutheran University, California State University, Northridge, San Diego State University, etc. She was a tenured professor and an expert in career technical education and adult learning. She currently teaches at a local college and helps students of all ages from kindergarten to the university level with career exploration, college admissions, learning assessment, tutoring, and education plans.