This “school fit” thing is really a nebulous concept.
At least, at first it is. When you’re first trying to figure out what schools to apply to and everything. It can be truly overwhelming. Where do you start, and how do you understand this “fit” thing in the first place?
Often this only is revealed in its final form much later in the process.
Initially people will decide where to apply based on multiple and myriad factors. The list will change frequently. The value of “school fit” initially is it tells you where NOT to apply.
How it works is this:
You come up with your list of schools, based either on where other people you know have gone, or maybe just only on rankings. Or geography. You decide you don’t want to go to school where it snows. Or that you want a place with an outdoors culture.
And then you go visit. (Hint: Now would be a grand time to do that!!)
Or if you can’t visit — and even if you can — you start talking to people. You connect with the school. You attend their webinars and go to a local info session when one is in town. You hook up with some students in a coffee chat and learn about their experiences.
Through these points of contact, you start to form impressions. Those opinions will guide you. You will discover what school has people you resonate with.
This is what is meant by “school fit” — at least, it’s one key dimension of it (and, to EssaySnark, really it’s the only one that matters).
The other aspect of “school fit” is a more clinical one, namely: Are you a fit to what type of student they typically accept? It’s coming from the direction of the school, and how you present yourself to them. That’s a whole different topic which we should probably discuss in full another time — or, just read all of the posts on this blahg about planning your strategy and writing your essays, and pick up the school strategy guide for the school that you’re targeting. We cover this stuff 24/7 here.
The final arbiter of “school fit” often does not manifest until very late in the process. That’s when you’re faced with decisions on which offer to accept. If you’ve done your homework and played your cards right and applied to the right set of schools in Round 1, then almost guaranteed you will be faced with the difficult decision of choosing between multiple options.
Sometimes that choice is a tormented one. BSers often agonize in the end, over which one to select, when there are multiple choices on the table.
But sometimes, the choice becomes obvious even before it has to be made (or sometimes it’s made for you).
An example from Round 1 last Fall is a BSer who was invited to interview at three top schools. But then as decisions started getting released, one of those was a “no.”
Here’s what we said to this person in response:
OH NO! How disappointing about [School X]!!!!!!!!!!
(But you wanna know a secret? We see you as more of a [School Y] or a [School Z] person anyway!!! When it comes down to values and all that!!)
Still, really bummed to hear that [School X] said no in the end. 🙁
It’s incredibly happy news to know that [School Y] accepted you, and let’s see what [School Z] does next and maybe you’ll have a difficult decision to make in the coming weeks!!!
Fingers crossed for this last one!
And, here’s what that BSer said back in response:
Thank you!! To be honest, I felt the same way, and have shared with a few close friends that I felt like it might be really hard to pick [School Y] or [School Z] over [School X] if I got into [School X], so getting that off the table almost feels like a relief (though of course I am disappointed). [School Y] and [School Z] were absolutely my favorites! I cried when [School Y] called me – she said very nice things about connecting with my essays and what a great fit I’d be for them. And hey – NO MORE ESSAYS or APPLICATIONS! Let’s see what [School Z] says!
BTW, this person did get into School Z as well.
So the moral of this story is:
Do your research — starting NOW.
Expect your list to evolve.
You’ll be making many decisions along the way, but you won’t likely know that how you’ll feel about any school until you get further into the process of applying, and learning about them, and experiencing those choices firsthand.
There is no One Size Fits All answer to the question of school fit. It’s totally personal and individual. But it’s just like falling in love: You know it when it happens to you.