Choosing that "perfect" college -- whether to apply or to attend -- is no easy task. The College Whisperer™ offers some advice on how to find the college that's best for you. 

Lily Herman, college student at Wesleyan University and Co-Founder of The Prospect, writes:   

What do you think is the most important thing for a student to look at when choosing a college? Or, what's an important aspect that many students don't look at or think about but they should?  

The College Whisperer

There truly is no single factor that can -- or, for that matter, should -- be determinative when deciding on a college. Typically, there will be a good number of reasons for a student to select a college, as well as rational reasons for the student to say, "that college is not for me."

Just what makes the perfect fit? Well, what will be one student's treasure may well be another's trash, so to speak. To some, it's all about the academics. Programs that align with one's career goals. Professors who are accessible (and speak English :-). To others, it may be the diversity of courses, or the diversity of students. Some vie for that tranquil campus setting of rolling hills and open spaces, while others prefer the city as campus. That small, quaint college life, or the large, bustling campus primed for the NCAA's Final Four.

Could it be the food in the dining halls? The dorm rooms? Greek life? Every student is unique, and so, each student's perspective on what makes the perfect college fit is different.

Then too, there's the matter of finances. "Can I afford to attend that college? Will my financial aid needs be met? Are there scholarships available, and how do I go about applying for them?"

What should not be determinative is, perhaps, easier to categorize.

Rankings, for instance. Fun to look at and to analyze, yet virtually meaningless when it comes to deciding which college will be a good fit for YOU.

Then there's the old popularity contest. The "I want to go where all my friends are going." Reminds me of a student I counseled several years back who only wanted to go to the University of Wisconsin. "Why?," I inquired. "Do you like cheese." "No," he responded, quizzically. "Do you like extremely cold winters?," I shot back. "No," he said, becoming impatient. "Do you like bad politics?," I asked, knowing this would go right over his head. He looked at me as if I had three eyes. "So why Wisconsin?," I asked with an inquisitive grin. To which my young charge replied, confidently, "Because all of my friends are applying there!"

Great story. Terrible reason for applying to a particular school.

College-bound students should sit themselves down, make a list -- or several -- of what they think they would like and not like about a college, as well as a list -- or several -- of colleges that more nearly fit the list of likes. [Yes, grades, scores and other such niceties must go into the mix, but we'll narrow our lists down to Target, Safety and Reach later.]

Then, by all means, visit the campus. First, virtually, via the college websites and online virtual tours ( and, to name but two). Once you've narrowed your choices down further still, visit in person. Take a tour. Taste the food. Sit in on a class or two. Stay overnight in the dorms. Speak with students, parents, professors, administrators and alumni. Ask questions.

No idea where to begin your college search? Always best to start with you. Who you are. What you would like to become. Where you are comfortable. How far outside that comfort zone you're willing to travel.

Then, too, websites, such as College Board's The Big Future,, and, of course,, can be helpful.

Attend a local college fair, speak with your guidance counselor, and, by all means, have a conversation with friends and relatives already in college.

Students are often surprised to find that schools they thought would be among their top choices sometimes fall from grace once they start exploring the options. Suddenly, all things considered, they find themselves comfortable, and happy, at a college they may not have even thought about (or heard of) when they first began the search. Which is exactly the way it should be in deciding upon that perfect college!

P.S. That student who "only wanted to go to the University of Wisconsin," didn't. He visited in the dead of winter (sans cheese), and never bothered to apply. He is currently a most contented Junior at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Plan. Prepare. Prevail!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of
The College Whisperer. Who knows what peril lurks in the college application and admissions process? The College Whisperer™ knows. . .
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