Skip The Madness: Four (But Not Final) Tips For Finding The Right College Fit

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The matchups are set, school taking on school. Individual attributes have been analyzed and compared to find where one school has an advantage over the other. Now it’s time to put a gameplan into action. But this tourney doesn’t end with cutting down nets. The true prize is finding the perfect “college fit.”

While a different kind of March Madness storms basketball courts around the country, college-bound students looking to attend the school that will best meet their academic and social goals can narrow down their options by comparing potential schools over a number of factors.

So how do students whittle the field down to the one school that will help them find their “one shining moment?” Line up those brackets and make choices based on some of the following keys to success:

Eyes on the Prize
Keeping a long view will help students not get caught up in where they think they want to be right now. Instead, compile a list of potential colleges based on where they want to be four years from now. Even if students don’t have a slam dunk idea of their future, having a vision of a general career path will help. Figure out which schools have programs that best suit your interests in potential careers.

Scout other students
Sure, everyone looks happy when they’re in the crowds of televised basketball games. But student life might be more than game time. If a student knows current students or alums of a prospective school, they should talk to them about their experience. Campus tours (on-site or online) also give opportunities to observe student life or ask current students about what to expect in the day-to-day routine.

Have a Financial Gameplan
Students that see themselves as financial “bubble” teams, might not have to worry about getting into their target schools. Financial aid options abound, from scholarships to Pell Grants and other financial aid from schools. Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will allow schools to pair students with financial aid options that can be the difference in a school making it to the next round.

Knowing the financial expectations of college will also help students prepare. Net price calculators can provide an estimated cost for the four years of school based on the published price (full cost) to attend a specific college or university, minus any grants and scholarships for which students may be eligible.

Keep An Open Mind
Every tournament has upsets. While students may have an early idea of which school will run away as the College Fit Champion, gaining more information about different schools, programs and costs can open the door to schools that were otherwise Cinderella picks. Students who have strong ideas of what they are looking for in a school, but stay flexible to new ideas have a better chance of finding the perfect school they may have never even had known existed.

Take your best shot
These tips are far from the final four that students should follow. But by taking the time to create a gameplan for deciding on schools, students won’t have to settle for last-second shots when deciding on a college. Review the pros and cons of each school to make the choice that is the best match of academics, finances, environment and preparation for life after graduation. With the right information, students will feel more comfortable about committing to a relationship with a school that will create a winning four-year dynasty.

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