Introducing a case study on how to find your best fit college breakthrough by focusing on best fit and match schools according to major and career goals. In this post, I take you step-by-step through the process of how I helped Noah compare “best fit” schools and ultimately decide where and when to apply.
We cast a wide net across 12 states before narrowing the search down to Noah’s home state. By visiting colleges, Noah got a feel for how far is too far from home for this tight-knit family.
Step 1: Develop Your Family’s Financial Aid Game Plan
Noah’s family will have three children in college. They have an EFC of $23,000. That said, they’ve decided not to waste time and money having Noah apply to reach schools where they won’t get enough aid. Instead, Noah’s family is targeting best fit public and private schools in Noah’s home state for the best possible merit and need-based aid.
Step 2: Create a Starter List
Even without reach schools, Noah’s starter list includes 9 best fit safety schools and 4 solid match schools to choose from. For a deeper dive into this topic read The Truth About Reach, Core and Safety Schools.
A reach school is a school where your test scores are below the 25th percentile for students admitted. A safety school is a school where your test scores are above the 75th percentile for students admitted.
Noah’s Best Fit Schools
- 6 best fit safety schools are private 4-year schools where Noah ranks in the top 25%
- 2 best fit safety schools are public 4-year schools where Noah ranks in the top 25%
- 1 safety school is a 2-year community college where he can graduate with an associate degree earning anywhere from 50K to 70K starting salary
Noah’s Match Schools
- 3 match schools are 4-year publics where Noah ranks in the top half
- 1 match school is a 4-year private school where Noah ranks in the top half
Step 3. Finalize Your College List According to Major and Career Goals
- When we factor in Noah’s top two college majors we can drop 5 of the 13 schools that don’t offer those majors.
- That leaves Noah with 3 match schools and 5 safety schools to apply to for a total of eight schools.
Step 4. Find Your Best Fit College with 4 + 1 Combined Programs
Best of all, two of his best fit schools offer a 4 + 1 combined degree program. Simply put, Noah could earn a bachelor’s and a master’s in 5 years instead of 6.
The private university goes a step further by providing continued scholarship support for a fifth year of graduate study. This could make it less expensive to attend the private university’s 4 + 1 combined degree program than the public’s.
Step 5. Explore Early Admission Options
Noah will apply early action to the public 4 + 1 program. He will apply priority applicant to the private 4 + 1 program.
As an incentive, the private school offers priority applicants the following:
- Priority consideration for up to 25% more in scholarship aid
- An automatic $1,000 priority applicant grant
- A non-binding admissions decision by the New Year
- A waiver of the $40 application fee
Most master’s programs are money makers for the colleges. It’s unusual to get scholarship towards a master’s, but that’s exactly what this private school offers. The school’s non-binding priority applicant perks means Noah has absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by applying early.
Noah’s Best Fit College Breakthrough
Noah hasn’t even stepped foot on campus, and he is already poised to save both time and money. What’s more, this sweet deal comes from a school with two conveniently located campuses—one just 12 minutes from Noah’s home. Commuting could save him even more money.
Priority applicant incentives plus scholarship support for a fifth year of graduate study just 12 minutes from Noah’s home make this school a best fit college breakthrough.
Noah’s family will rest easier knowing that by applying strategically to schools most likely to fund Noah, the family won’t run out of money before Noah gets his master’s. In fact, all three children will have master’s degrees while many of their peers are still working on getting a bachelor’s.
Find Your Best Fit College Hiding in Plain Sight
I searched over 12 states to develop Noah’s college list, but in the end the very best academic and financial fit was right under his nose just 12 minutes from home. Find your best fit college breakthrough at the crossroads between college major, career goals and college cost savings.
What about you? If you were to find your best fit college, what would it look like?
Please share your thoughts in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.