One of the many benefits of engaging an independent college admissions consultant is having someone to keep you focused on finding colleges that fit. That can be a challenge when everyone around you is talking about their favorite school, the latest magazine rankings and their cousin’s bad experience at _______ University.

What do we mean by fit? Peter van Buskirk, a veteran consultant, puts it this way on his College Planning Blog:

“the optimal solution (college choice) will be the one that fits you best. It will:
1)    Offer a program of study to match your interests and needs.
2)    Provide a style of instruction to match the way you like to learn.
3)    Provide a level of academic rigor to match your aptitude and preparation.
4)    Offer a community that feels like home to you.
5)    Value you for what you have to offer. “

Of course, students and parents also need to talk about cost and affordability. So let’s add affordability and comfort with potential borrowing to the fit parameters. That suggests identifying colleges with strong track records for providing need-based or merit aid will often play a big role in developing a college list.