How to Pick the College That Fits You


Students tour Kansas State University. Photo courtesy Kansas State University.

Grace Kramer, Reporter

College is the moment, the time, the experience we have been awaiting for 12 years … and many of us have no idea what we want to do with our lives!

We have heard the stories of how our collegiate years will be the best times of our lives. Our parents, aunts, uncles, siblings and friends all tell us about their crazy experiences and the pure joy amid the madness. We have seen Bixby High graduating classes before us hang up their caps and gowns and take on the next chapter in their lives.

And now, it’s our time.

Be strong, friends. As you delve deep into a search for the perfect college, you learn many tips and tricks to make the decision much easier.


  • ACT Profile – When most students hear the letters ACT, they cringe with anguish from the torment they’ve felt from the challenging college preparedness test. However, the creators of ACT might not be all that bad. If you visit the website, you will find an interest inventory that assesses what careers you might enjoy. The ACT Profile also provides in-depth descriptions of colleges, majors and careers, and gives easy access to answers of all sorts of questions you might have about your future.
  • Big Future – You might find redemption in College Board (also cringe worthy) by using Big Future. This collegiate search engine provides lists of colleges based upon the criteria you enter. It’s a fabulous tool to find colleges that are a match for you as an individual.
  • College ScorecardThis website, run by the U.S. Department of Education, lets students look at different qualities of each college and use those to compare schools. Maybe one has more academic prestige but is a lot more expensive, while another has numerous research facilities and lower tuition. Weigh your options and the pros and cons of each college with this website.
  • FAFSA – The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is an online form that determines each student’s eligibility for federal financial aid. Many students make the mistake of not filing a FAFSA because they assume that they will not receive any aid. However, you may be surprised at your options. Students can gain anything from a Pell Grant (up to $5,775) to a Work-Study Program, depending on family income and circumstances (such as how many children). Plus, many grants and scholarships associated with individual colleges only come after you have filled out a FAFSA. The point is: Take the time to fill out the FAFSA. It can’t hurt; it will only help. This year, you can actually download information from your parents’ previous IRS tax return directly to the FAFSA. Go to to get started.


  • Regardless of whether you plan to attend community college, it is a great backup in case something doesn’t go according to plan. Maybe a parent gets sick and you need to help out, or the combination of work and stress from being away from home is too much to start out. The application doesn’t take long and the benefits are worth the effort.


  • One of the hardest parts of picking a college is narrowing the list. When you have so many great options, how are you supposed to choose? Create criteria to select a college that fits your needs. Whether you want to pick a college based on academic prestige or the social scene, use resources to find the college right for you and make a list of your favorite picks. College Match by Steven Antonoff is a first-rate workbook that helps you figure out what’s right for you. The smaller the list gets, the less stressful your decision will be. You want to have one or two reach (or dream) schools, and two or three likely schools. The rest should be target schools based upon your grades, your standardized test scores and likelihood of admission.


  • The best way to assess whether a college is the right fit for you is an official college tour. Many say you have a gut feeling when you know what college is right for you, and you can’t get that without visiting. You will have the opportunity to view dormitories, other housing, and academic buildings, and get the general vibe of campus. Plus, you can meet residents and get feedback on the overall experience.