I get this question quite a bit because I recruit all over the United States. It is all about the fit and the match.

Students need to understand that attending college is quite an investment in time and effort, and they need to account for their academic fit as well as their social fit. By academic fit, you need to figure out if a college or university has all of the academic programs that you might be interested in – and will that be available to you. Given the fact that perhaps you might have many areas of interest, such as athletics, it is very critical to account for your academic fit.

Students need to ask: who will teach you and how will they teach you? As far as social fit, we expect young people to have a great time. We want students to understand what is available from a student development standpoint, from an activities co-curricular standpoint, and determine if all the activities they might want to engage in are available to them as well. This is very critical.

There are also some practical things I want young people to think about. There are no guarantees. College is at least four years, so you want to be happy wherever you go. Account for the retention rate. Account for the graduation rate. And account for student outcomes. When looking at retention rate, students need to ask, "Are students returning as sophomores, as juniors, as seniors?" Because if they are, I would argue that they are satisfied and happy with their experiences. When I think about graduation rate, there are no guarantees – in most cases, nationally, we actually track a six-year graduation rate. You want to know the answer to the question, what is the graduation rate in four years? Four years. Lastly, what are the outcomes? Ask what students are doing after graduation, within six months, and within a year. If you answer all of those things, then you’re accounting for your fit.

About the Author

Gil Villanueva

Gil Villanueva serves as University of Richmond’s Associate Vice President and Dean of Admission. He is also Chair of the Board of Directors for The Common Application....