The word “fit” may be the weightiest, yet least understood, term in school admissions lexicon. It is thrown around effortlessly by administrators and admissions officials, but applicants aren’t always sure exactly what being “a good fit” means.
There are typically two dimensions of“good fit”: the first involves parallels that you, the candidate can bring to the table. It is your job to let a school know which of your own personal interests, values, goals, and strengths align with or complement that which is offered by that school. These fit elements must be actively injected into your application and articulated very clearly. These correlate directly to some version of a question you are sure to be asked in the application: “Why is this school right for you?”
The second dimension of “good fit” is some set of intangible qualities that candidates cannot anticipate or try to demonstrate without experiencing the environment of the school—this typically has more to do with a feeling or sense of belonging experienced by you and, hopefully, existing members of the target school community. When an admissions committee member assesses a candidate for fit, in addition to assessing parallels as mentioned above, she might ask: “after meeting and speaking with this person, and based on reading his application, could I see him being content and productive among others in the school?”
So, why is understanding this element so important both to targeting and successfully applying to schools? Because students perform better when they attend schools that are a good fit and schools know it. It’s easier to make friends, be motivated, fine new passions, and perform well at a place in which the level of academic work is challenging but doable, and in which there are things to be found in common with other members of the community.
Conversely, students who target schools for the wrong reasons will have a difficult time demonstrating fit, and, therefore, a difficult time earning the desired spot. For this reason, choosing the right targets is the most important determinant of how good your chances of getting into a given school, and how happy you will be once you get there.