Fit comes first: why finding the best fit matters for college applicants

The Evergreen State College, located in Olympia, Washington, doesn’t require students to submit essays in their application process. The 4,000 students who attend the school aren’t separated into two gender specific housing choices. Instead, Evergreen students are given the choice between three dorming situations: male, female, and gender non-specific. Instead of graduating with a specified major in a specific field, Evergreen students graduate with a general liberal arts major.

Although it sounds far from the stereotypical college experience most students at SAS are familiar with, for senior Carson Reeves, Evergreen is a best fit school.

Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington
Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington

“When I applied, I felt like I belonged there, like they couldn’t turn me away because I was meant to go there,” Reeves said. “That sounds really Disney-princess-destiny, but it seemed like the college was made for people like me and for people that had the same interests as me.”

Counselor Dale Ford stressed that “college is not a zero-sum game where there’s the right, the good, the wrong, and the bad; it’s about what’s right for you.” There are multiple factors that determine which college is the “best fit” for a particular student. Location, strength of the major, cost, prestige, and weather are all aspects of universities that different people prioritize in different ways. For some students, like senior Jack Albanese, the social factor is what drove his decision home.

Albanese originally put in his deposit for John Carroll University, only to switch a month later and commit to DePaul University when he realized the latter was better suited to his personality. John Carroll University had offered Albanese a scholarship, but it did not offer the kind of balance between academics and social life that he valued.

“I didn’t want to just completely surround myself in academic pursuits – that’s why I chose DePaul. It’s in the heart of Chicago, and all of my really fun, young Italian and Irish relatives live there. Initially, I was worried that’d be too much of a distraction, but I was willing to take that risk,” Albanese said.

However, what is considered a “best fit” for Albanese may be vastly different from a “best fit” for another student. Both Albanese and Reeves acknowledged the significance of social aspects in their decision on where to go to school, but for senior Izzy Nguyen-Phuoc, financial aid, scholarships, and her ability to achieve her goal of participating in the U.S. Navy all played a role in her decision to attend Boston University in the fall.

Senior Izzy Nguyen-Phuoc will be attending Boston University in the fall.
Senior Izzy Nguyen-Phuoc will be attending Boston University in the fall.

Nguyen-Phuoc said that before receiving her financial aid package from BU, she was committed to going to McGill University. However, after learning that a combination of a ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) scholarship and a financial aid package at BU would result in a full ride for all four years, the senior changed her mind about where she would be attending in the fall.

Upon accepting her ROTC scholarship, Nguyen-Phuoc agreed to “physical training in the mornings at six” and to “take calculus, physics, and naval science courses, as well as participate in summer cruises during college.” She also has to serve five years of active duty in the Navy following her college graduation.

“[Boston University] has everything I need,” Nguyen-Phuoc said.

However, as students evaluate and consider what “best fit” colleges to apply to, they must also think about the likelihood that they will be accepted. Acceptance rates are continuing to decrease at about 20% of the colleges and universities in the U.S., while the international applicant pool grows steadily in numbers. This can mean only one thing – more rejections worldwide.

From these statistics, one might assume that acceptance rates for SAS students have also gone down, but surprisingly, this has not been the case.

The number of SAS students accepted to selective universities during 2014 and 2015.
The number of SAS students accepted to selective universities during 2014 and 2015.

“For the past four to five years, the number of SAS students accepted to selective schools has stayed the same. In addition, every year for our annual alumni survey, the results for the question ‘How happy are you with where you are?’ is uniformly positive,” counselor Dale Ford said.

Earlier this year, the high school counseling team asked a highly selective school how to increase SAS’s acceptance rates at their school. According to counselor Trevor Sturgeon, the highly selective school’s response was: “SAS should be applauding themselves for maintaining their acceptance rates at schools like ours when we’ve been become twice as selective over the past 20 years. So if you can hold firm, that’s the best thing you can do.”

But in the end, acceptance rates and selectivity statistics aren’t what matter most. Students are looking for schools that fit their social, financial and academic needs, regardless of the school’s rank.

Author: Jeane Khang

Jeane Khang is a Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Eye, along with Jenna Nichols, and is a producer of the Morning Show. This is her third year taking a journalism class and her 11th year at SAS. In her free time, she loves to learn dance routines, listen to music and eat Italian food.

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