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College Fit

When searching for colleges, keep in mind the three kinds of fit:  Personal, Academic, and Financial. The steps outlined below will help you figure out what those factors are for you. Once you identify potential colleges, use our College Fit Worksheet (5.2024) to guide your research.   

Also see the slideshows from our Fall 2023 Juniors Aiming for College series, which are linked in the Aiming for College Packet and also below in each section. 

Personal Fit

Every student should look both inward and outward. Looking beyond surface characteristics will give a college search direction and result in better decisions. For an overview and recommended steps, see our  Personal Fit  and Intro to College Admissions presentations from our Fall 2023 Juniors Aiming for College series. 
Resources linked in the Personal Fit  section below are from How to Create a Great College List by College Essay Guy/ Steve Antonoff/ Ted Fiske

Academic Fit

A school must be suited academically, which in most cases, that means GPA and rigor of classes taken. This is not just a number-matching task, though you can start there. We encourage students to come up with schools that are likely and/or possible with their academic record. See our Academic Fit & Researching Colleges presentation from our Fall 2023 Juniors Aiming for College series. 

Financial Fit

College is priced like airline tickets, where almost everyone pays a different price. The challenge is to get a reasonable estimate of your net price, which may be very different than the sticker price. Everyone should look for outside scholarships, but the biggest grants and scholarships will come through the schools themselves. Research, done well ahead of applications, may literally pay off. See our Financial Fit presentation from our Fall 2023 Juniors Aiming for College Series. 

There are two main types of aid: need-based aid and merit aid. Figure out which you will qualify for and then figure out which schools are best to target for that kind of aid. All schools offer need-based aid, though some schools will cover much more need than others. Only some schools offer merit aid, and the criteria and amounts vary widely. 

College Personal Fit

College Academic Fit

College Financial Fit


Want to Visit Colleges?  

Check out the ideas on the Visiting Colleges page. 

Materials from Juniors Aiming for College Series November 2023

Aiming for College Packet  contains: 

College Search Tools

Which Tool to Use?
Start here when you are choosing which search engine/ tools you will use. This list shows some major options, and outlines what each tool is best for. 


Scoir Our primary college search tool. Each student has an account, and parent/guardians have observer accounts. You can do the College Match Quiz linked on your login page and/ or use the tools under Discover > Colleges. Students will log in via Classlink
Figure out Your Priorities with Corsava helps you figure out your personal priorities via a card search. Sign up for free. 
Find Colleges by Unconventional ListsWant to know which colleges look like Hogwarts? Which ones are good for vegetarians? Have students who care about politics? Explore these lists. This tool is especially useful after you have done a Corsava search to figure out your priorities.
College Major Finder Created by Jon Boeckenstedt. Figure out which colleges offer which majors, and filter by state or other factors. This information is also in the Naviance SuperMatch tool. 
Majors & Careers Wondering which majors end up in which careers? Look at this interactive compilation. While the data is specific to one college, the actual information is not. Give it a try and see what you can do with a _____ degree. 
Think College Find and compare information on 270+ programs for students with intellectual disabilities. 
How to Evaluate the Quality of a College's Program for a Specific Major Video of presentation by Carolyn Kost, East West Educational.
Guidebook for American Indian Students The Native Pathways: A College-Going Guidebook provides relatable college-going content for Native American high school students that speaks to their culture, ways of knowing, and experiences as they consider options for attending college.
Campus Safety & Security Look up reported safety & security data for a particular school or compare multiple schools. 


Financial Resources:  Official Sites where students who are US citizens will complete the financial aid form 
Federal Student Aid Estimator can give you an idea of the federal aid you might be eligible for. 
WASFA  for students with alternate citizenship/ immigration status to fill out the Washington financial aid form. 
Washington State Financial Aid Calculator can give you an idea of what kind of aid you might receive from the various state aid programs. 

Financial Search Tools

Average Merit Aid look for percent of students receiving merit aid and average award amount for 400+ colleges.
Buyers and Sellers List 2024 by Jeff Selingo. Use this spreadsheet to determine which colleges are Buyers (they use financial incentives to attract students) or Sellers (highly selective schools that do not offer merit aid). View the video on Jeff for an introduction. Look up colleges' % of need covered, typical packages, % of students receiving merit, and other financial data. Look up a college > Financials and scroll down to Profile of Financial Aid. Check both first-year and all undergraduates. allows you to look at basics like grad rate and also average costs, indebtedness, and salaries of graduates. Look up a college, then expand the information, including the Costs. You will be able to see the average cost by family income. 

Domestic Need-Based and Merit Aid
spreadsheet with 400+ colleges. Look up % of need covered, % of students without need receiving merit. 
Equitable Value Explorer Aims to examine the value of education received by post-college earnings. 
MeritMore allows you to search for possible merit aid by state or by college. It's a handy  tool for getting an idea about merit aid patterns. is an aggregated Net Price Calculator (NPC) for 72 colleges, mostly in the Midwest and Northeast. See if your colleges participate; it's an excellent tool if they do and will simplify the NPC step. has a search tool to find colleges that fit your situation and price range, and has an offer comparison tool when you get financial aid offers from colleges. 

Financial Guides & Advice

Buyers and Sellers Jeff Selingo, author of Who Gets In and Why, has brought together admission rates and financial award norms of about 40 universities. For an explanation of the Buyer and Seller designations, see Which colleges are really buyers and which are sellers?  Some colleges offer money to entice students to come, but others do not have to in order to attract students. 
Get Help Paying for College  Big Future/ College Board resources. Helps explain how the financial aid process works and provides some tools.  & Paying for College Facebook group. Has some free webinars and some paid resources. Mostly good advice in the Facebook forum but some parents make the mistake of extrapolating their situation to everyone. 
guide by the College Essay Guy. We recommend Step 2 which will help you find the types of colleges that might work for your family. 
book by Ron Lieber. Looks at how college pricing works and suggests strategies for searching for affordable colleges. Read Chapter 1