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Your College Search: Finding the Right Fit (page 2)

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Updated on Oct 10, 2011

Therefore, our students need to spend less time figuring out what pleases a college and more time figuring out what pleases themselves. By pursuing their strengths, they will have the chance to develop the leadership and ambition that will shape their future. 

According to Kleeman, “A high quality high-school experience comes when you challenge yourself in areas in which you have interest and strength. Get involved with what you love. Make choices based on what inspires you. Make sure that what you’ve done is what you want to do.” When you package yourself as something you’re not just to impress a certain college, chances are good you won’t be happy at that college. It’s far better to be yourself and find a college that will appreciate and foster your unique talents.

There are many private, liberal-arts colleges that offer an outstanding education, and college counselors can help students hone in on the ones that fit their interests. But if cost is an issue, there are many excellent, lesser-known public universities that should be investigated. 

In California, for instance, many students focus on UC Berkeley or UCLA even though their admissions are extremely competitive. But the UC system guarantees a spot for everyone who’s eligible. UC Merced and UC Riverside are excellent options, and aren’t pressure-cookers like their big-city cousins where classes are so hard to get that many students need five years to graduate.

So as your child considers where to attend college, it’s important to remember that selectivity and quality are not always synonymous. Consider factors beyond name recognition when looking at colleges, such as student-to-faculty ratios, retention rates, and enrichment experiences. Smaller colleges often offer more individual attention, unique opportunities, and chances to shine. They can be less nerve-wracking and might offer a pleasanter quality of life. Spend some time investigating some of these less-familiar colleges and you’ll find for yourself that stress is, indeed, optional.  

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