Helping Students Find the Best Match and Fit

Getting students into college is only half the battle. We're often asked how to ensure students are persisting through college once they get in the door. Two important factors in college retention and success are match (whether the college's academic rigor aligns with a student's academic achievement) and fit (how a college aligns with a student's social, financial, and academic needs). Making sure students are correctly matched to the colleges they want to attend is crucial to their ultimate success. For example, low-income students often select colleges whose average GPA and ACT score are well under their academic capabilities; when this happens, these students are less likely to graduate despite being "overqualified." It is equally important to ensure students (especially at-risk students) are entering colleges at which they have a support system, including a community of like-minded students, majors and class sizes that fit their learning needs, and extra-curricular opportunities that keep them involved and engaged.

Thankfully, MCAN can point to our partners and statewide initiatives for a variety of best practices and high-quality resources that direct service providers can use to help their students navigate match and fit. For one, Michigan College Application Week allows for an entire week (or more) dedicated to helping students research and apply to college. Students can spend the weeks leading up to Michigan College Application Weekdiving into the ins and outs of different colleges using the resources discussed below. After they've done their research, why not have students apply to not one college, but three: a match school, a reach school, and a "safety" school that each meet the student's match and fit criteria?

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 we are the independents
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FSM New 4-19-13

Even though College Application Week has wrapped up for 2014, there are resources available year-round to help with this process. The Michigan College Access Portal is a free one-stop-shop for planning for college, and includes a college search feature to help students (starting as early as 7th grade) choose which schools best meet their needs based on several characteristics including Academics & Scores, Size & Environment, Sports & Activities, Cost of Attendance, and Majors. MichiganCAP also includes a Paying for College section that helps a student determine the anticipated costs associated with each college on their list. Similary, College Greenlight offers student reviews of colleges (like Yelp!), a match and fit meter, and customized college lists based on student profiles.

The Michigan Colleges Alliance just launched a new outreach campaign called We Are the Independents, dedicated to informing students of their options when it comes to Michigan's independent liberal arts colleges, many of which are great social and financial fits for students. This campaign is great because, like in our example above, many low-income or first-generation students tend to view these colleges as too elite or too expensive. Messaging such as that in their Fact or Fiction section aims to change these perceptions.

Additionally, MCAN works with partners like the Developmental Disabilities Institute at Wayne State University and Fostering Success Michigan to promote the available college access resources for students with disabilities and students in foster care.

We're always looking for more resources to help students demystify match and fit! What are you using to talk about match and fit with your students?


Christ Taylor headshot 2013

Author: Christi Taylor, director of statewide initiatives for the Michigan College Access Network

Posted: December 9, 2014

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