Finding a Good College Fit: the Basics

Start your engines, 11th graders! In 17 months, you could be leaving home for your college adventure. If you have no clue where you want to apply, reading this post could jump-start your college search—post haste, I hope.

First, let’s start with a question:  What do Liberty University, UCLA & Kenyon College have in common?  The short answer--other than being institutes of higher learning--not much. You might ask, “Aren’t most colleges basically the same?” Nope! Highlighting these three colleges, see how size, location and perspective, the most obvious differentiators, might influence your college choice. 

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Liberty University is the largest Christian university in the world. It enrolls 15,000 students (an additional 60,000+ online) and is situated on a sprawling 7,000 acre campus in the Eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the small city of Lynchburg, Virginia.  According to the Liberty website, “the mission of Liberty University is to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge and skills essential for impacting tomorrow’s world.”  

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World-renown UCLA, on the opposite side of the continent, educates 30,000 undergraduates on 419 acres in the 2nd most populous city in the US.  Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean are neighbors! UCLA’s mission statement reads, in part: “We value open access to information, free and lively debate…and freedom from intolerance.”  

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Our third example, Kenyon College, is a small, liberal arts college located in the rolling hills of the Ohio countryside, in the village of Gambier, population 3,000.  ‘Small’ refers to, at Kenyon, 1700 enrolled students. ‘Liberal Arts’ refers to a traditional four-year, broad-ranged curriculum of study. Kenyon’s mission:  “afford its students a higher sense of their own humanity and to inspire them to work with others to make a society that would nourish a better humankind.”

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How many majors are there?

   Liberty has 500 majors (including their online majors)— UCLA 125—Kenyon 33. Using the Life Sciences as an example of differing approaches, a biology class at UCLA might enroll over 500 students, but there are 20 distinct biology majors to choose from.  At Kenyon, your biology class might enroll 25 students but there is only one General Biology major. And, from the website at Liberty, “All biology courses are taught from a Christian worldview, so while students are working toward their biology or biochemistry degree, they are also strengthening their spiritual life, and confirming why they believe in the reality of Biblical creation.”

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What makes a good college fit?

  •  Do I want to live in a major metropolitan area near an ocean (UCLA) or in a small town on a campus with 490 acres of nature preserve (Kenyon).
  • Will I be comfortable raising my hand to ask a question in a class with 500 other students (UCLA)?
  • Do I want access to thousands of courses and uncommon specialties like International Migration Studies or Geospatial Information Systems and Technologies (UCLA)?
  • Do I want to live on campus all four years (required at Kenyon & Liberty)?
  • Am I a fan of the Pac-12  (UCLA) or the Big South (Liberty) or of Harry Potter (Kenyon)?
  • Would it be cool to have professors serving me ‘late night breakfast’ on the Sunday before finals (Kenyon)?  
  • Do I want my professors to be vetted for their "Born Again relationship with Christ” (Liberty)?
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Stating the obvious, if earning a bachelor’s degree were the only consideration, one could enroll in any number of accredited online bachelor’s programs, staying comfortably and much more cheaply in the family home.  If leaving the nest is an economic option, analyze your choices from multiple angles.

An A+ College Tip:

Spring break is just around the corner. Why not take a tour of a few colleges while you are on vacation. If you are staying close to home, start the college search by visiting all of your local colleges. No matter where you start researching, now is the time to embark on what should be a fun and empowering adventure. To repeat: 11th graders, it’s 17 long months before you leave home but it’s only 9 months before the first applications are due. Call A+ if you need help!

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Allison Henderson

If you want someone to help your teen organize and plan their college adventure, give A+ a call. I would love to help launch your teen!