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  • Writer's pictureCortney Dowdle

Study in the USA - What is fit and why is it so important?

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

The most important part of studying in the USA is finding the university that is the best fit for you. The best fit academically, financially, and holistically.

We are continuing the theme of the school search process with one more blog this week before diving into admissions information next week. And this is one I’ve been SO excited to write…

Girl getting ready for university classes.
Learn how to find the best fit university in the USA.

If you're short on time, here are the biggest takeaways from this blog:

  1. Fit is about how well you feel like you belong, not how high the university is ranked.

  2. Finding the right fit can ultimately shape how successful you are in university and your future career. The most highly ranked school doesn't guarantee your happiness and doesn't guarantee you internships or jobs.

  3. Your personality and preferences should be considered along with the programs, cost, and ranking of the universities you choose to apply to

I’ve written this blog in my head hundreds of times over the past few years, and I know a bunch of colleagues in the field who could write it, speak it, and preach it. I’m writing this to all prospective high school students, college or university students, or graduate students wanting to study abroad literally anywhere in the world.

Part 1 - If I could tell you the amount of international educators that have the “fit” conversation on a regular basis. Basically all of us. Guys, let’s set the scene here. We have these international recruiters, directors, advisers, whatever the title is, who go around the world regularly to talk to students abroad about studying at their particular schools. Of course they want you to go to their school, but if they are good at their job, they also care that the school is a good match for you. This recruiting or advising happens at the secondary school level and especially at the post-secondary school level. So the educators go abroad, from these thousands of different schools around the USA and the world, and they try to find the best students that will be successful at their schools.

Part 2 - And then there are the students. Amazing, driven, smart, with unique personalities, diverse skills, and different passions. From different cultures, different cities, different countries, and different continents….and they all want to go to the same > 10 > universities... <smh>. Can you imagine? All my educators out there, hands in the air because you have probably had this conversation about “fit” more than any other admissions conversation. Ever. All of you prospective students out there, hands in the air (own it guys), because you have grown up wanting to study in the USA or another country, and you have associated a very short list of potential schools with that experience.

Of course there are famous universities like Harvard, Yale, and MIT known for outstanding academics around the world. There are large conference athletic schools like University of Alabama, Clemson University, and THE Ohio State University (sorry guys, I am admittedly Ohio born and raised). But remember, there are quite literally thousands of options for you. So educators go around the world encouraging students to study at schools that fit their unique interests. And at the end of the day, educators also try to convince students to understand that most universities out there will afford students plenty of opportunities to be successful, to make their mark, and to make an impact during their time studying abroad. More often than not, students forget how big of a factor they themselves are in the process.

Talking to the students now- The school you choose to study at is going to change you, yes. The experience will hopefully help you learn, grow, and explore. But also remember that you are the most important factor in this journey. You, and only you, have the ability to make the study experience exactly what you want. And you and only you can pick the school that fits you best. That school may or may not be one of the most recognized school names in the world. And that’s okay.

Because "fit" determined how well you feel like you belong.

You might thrive in a classroom of 500 students (yes, large public research universities often have massive classes of introductory level courses). You might thrive in a big city. You might thrive in a sports crazy fan school. You might thrive in a fine arts school. You might thrive in a technical school, a fashion school, a nursing school, a school with anime clubs, the list goes on. The point being that there is no one size fits all school or university.

All that said to bring us back to this idea of “fit”. Fit will mean something different for everyone. Figuring out what’s most important to you before you start the school search process is key to finding the best schools to pursue.

Here are some key questions to ask yourself before you start the search process:

  1. What kind of climate am I comfortable living in?

  2. What location preferences do I have, if any?

  3. Do I prefer a big city or a smaller, quieter town?

  4. What do I want to study? Or at least, what subjects do I find most interesting?

  5. Am I looking for a specialized school or a traditional liberal arts school?

  6. What’s most important to me? Is it sports, clubs, residential life?

  7. What is the campus culture like at the schools that interest me? For example, are they basketball crazies, do they have an art scene, or are they big into tech?

  8. What kind of support does the school offer international students? (one you might not think of right away, but I promise it’s good to ask about or know)

  9. How important is cost? Does the school offer financial aid or scholarships to international students?

  10. Do they have specific support for advising international students in areas like career and internship searches?

Phew. I feel like I could go on for days about finding the right fit. I do think it’s a personalized conversation every time and working as an international educator has given me the opportunity to hone in on these questions above and help students see ways to search for schools that they didn’t even think about previously.


The first webinar in The Ultimate Study in the USA Toolkit - 6 Weeks to Study Success is all about choosing a school and finding the right fit. If you’re interested in learning more, check it out here.

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