Tips to Help You Find Your College Fit

Did you ever wonder how you would find a college that is right for you? The struggle occurs because it's hard to research all the information that is critical in finding the place where you will be happiest. Being happy in college is all about finding the right fit.

In other words, how can you know ahead of time which college will line up best with your values, needs and dreams?

Here are some tips from former college athletes and coaches to help you sort it out.

Knowing What You Want Helps

Much of what is learned about college comes from research. When you know what you are looking for, it is easier to do the research. Below are some possible situations you might have to decide on.

Big College vs. Little College

Are you more comfortable with a larger college or a smaller college? Some colleges require taking buses to get around because the campuses are so large and classes are very spread out. Some colleges have facilities that you have to drive to for practice and games, as opposed to being within walking distance. Some classes are far from the practice facilities and the dorms.

Smaller campuses may have facilities, dorms and classes that are all a minute or two within walking distance. These colleges have a more intimate setting. Which do you prefer?

High Academic Standards vs. Lower Academic Standards

Some colleges have high admission standards and others are not as strict with entrance requirements. Some colleges carry higher academic prestige than others. It all depends on what area of study you are looking for and what kind of college degree you want to graduate with.

More of a Sports Town vs. Less of a Sports Town

Some colleges are located in sports towns. In other words, the campus and the community really embrace the sports teams at the college and attend the sporting events throughout the year. These colleges may have an atmosphere of tailgates, big rivals and big fan bases.

Colleges that do not have a major sports presence may not have the same look and feel as those colleges where the community is wrapped around the college's sporting events. These colleges probably have other attractions outside of sports that the students and community are interested in. Sports don't drive the community.

Sports fans together cheering all dressed in red

Rural College vs. Urban College

Are you more comfortable in a rural setting or in an urban setting? Colleges that are set in urban environments may have more opportunities for activities off-campus and in the cities. If the college is in more of a rural environment, it may be harder to find things to do away from campus. Many colleges in these settings may hold more events on campus.

Where do you live now? If you enjoy the environment you are in, you may want to look for something similar in the college location you choose.

NCAA vs. NAIA vs. NJCAA 

Which level of competition can you play and/or which level are you most comfortable with? Each level has different rules regarding how much time coaches can spend with athletes, especially in the off-season. Each has differing rules about off-days, hours of competition and the recruiting process. They also have different policies regarding summer school.

Understanding these differences will help you sort out options.

Diversity vs. Less Diversity

What is the makeup of the campus, the community and the team? What are you comfortable with? To some athletes, diversity is really important while it is less important to others. Knowing where you stand can help make decisions easier when you look at the colleges you are thinking about attending.

Great Team Chemistry vs. Not Great Chemistry

Do you want a close team? Do you want good relationships with your coaches? Do the relationships on the team and coaching staff matter to you?

Some athletes don't care as much about the relationships as long as they are pushed to become the best they can be. It's all a matter of preference.

Softball team in a huddle with hands intertwined

It’s a Personal Decision

Finding fit is a personal decision, one that you will eventually figure out. However, it is also a decision that should be based on the facts you know about yourself.

Sitting vs. Playing Right Away

Can you handle little or no playing time in your first year? Do you want a starting role? Answering these questions is helpful when you talk to the coaches about your opportunities and role on your future team.

Level of Competition

Do you want a program that plays for a championship most years or one that is in a building situation? Do you want to be in a program that plays in a top conference or does that not matter as much as to you? Do you want teammates who are really competitive and focused only on their sport, or those focused on other things besides their sport in college?

Knowing What You Can Handle 

Can you handle working year-round on your sport, or do you prefer more free time away from sports to work on academics or other interests? Some athletes take international trips, have internships or summer jobs to help procure a future job. Others strictly work on their sport to try to become the best they can be in that sport. It’s up to you.

Travel and Missing Classes vs. More Local Travel

Some conferences have colleges closer in proximity to each other so you don’t have to travel far for competitions. You probably would miss less class at one of these colleges. Others require overnight stays and much more travel. Knowing your academic needs can help in making a decision about missing class.

Close to Home vs. Further Away

Do you want to stay close to home where your family can see you play more and you can make it home a little more often? Or would you prefer moving a little further away from home and living somewhere different?

Girls at a locker in a high school

Comparing Your High School Situation to Your College Choice

If you like your high school situation, then mirroring it to your potential college situation is a place to start. Here are some considerations to compare:

  • Big or small high school
  • Like or dislike your city or town
  • Good or bad high school sports team
  • Like or dislike the high school coaches
  • Like or dislike your high school teammates
  • Like certain classes better than others (to help you line up your major)


All of these components make up your experience in high school and will also play a role in how comfortable you are in college. You may like what you currently have in high school or you might want to try something different.

Three female graduates smiling with diplomas

Will the Institution Help You Get to Where You Want to Go

When college is over and you have walked across the stage, will this college help you get to where you want to go? It’s hard to answer this question about college before you graduate from high school, but it pays to make sure your potential college aligns with your dreams.

Can the college help you with your major? Will they help you get networked for a job after college? What are some of their former athletes doing now?

When you are thinking about college, there are a lot of things to consider.

You may not know all of these answers when you begin the recruiting process, but, as you travel through the journey, more and more of your wants and needs will hopefully come to light. That is why beginning earlier in your high school career is beneficial. It gives you more time to figure out some of these facts that will become decisions for you later in the process.

What makes you happy and what drives you? You might have an answer right now, although it could change later in your high school career. Beginning to think about these things now is a great start.