As a young person, I was very much against the idea of running unless I was being chased. Then a few years ago, I saw a zombie movie (trust me, this is going somewhere) that impressed upon me the importance of cardio. The next day I was shopping for running shoes.
I had no idea what kind of shoes I wanted, let alone needed. The options were limitless. There were colorful shoes; some with thick soles; and others that looked like socks. Some marketed as if I'd be able to climb hills. Others that were so bright, it hurt to look at them. There were too many options and I couldn't make a decision.
"Should I focus on the brands I recognize? Do yellow shoes actually work better than purple?"
Then my new best friend walks in, the shoe expert, asking me all the important questions to help her help me. Today, I’m hoping to be your college fit advisor by taking a similar approach, but you won't have to change your shoes.
The ‘FACES’ model
When speaking to prospective students, I use the acronym "FACES" to highlight the five "fit" factors to consider. FACES remains an excellent way to narrow down college choices when weighing your options.
How much are you willing to pay for your bachelor's degree? Unlike UC Davis, some college websites list a “sticker price,” which may not total how much money you’ll actually end up spending. Look for estimators and calculators to help you better gauge expected costs. Financial aid, grants, and scholarships can greatly reduce your costs.
You’ll want to remember the location of a school will impact your costs as well (more on this later). I cannot stress enough how important it is to discuss finances and affordability with your family. Choosing a school that stretches your finances too thin can have a negative impact on your total experience. And when discussing costs with the colleges, make sure you’re looking at the whole price tag, not just the tuition.
Does the school you’re looking at offer what you want to study? Most likely, if you’ve applied, then “yes” is the answer. But I encourage you to ask some follow-up questions:
“What else can I study? Can I change my major or add a minor? Is there enough variety so I can change my major without having to transfer to a different school?”
And don’t forget that your academic opportunities aren't limited to campus. What type of study abroad opportunities or campus visitor programs are available for you to take advantage of?
What do you want your education to do for you? Will a bachelor's degree be enough along your career path? You’ll want to collect internship and research experience while you’re an undergraduate. To do so, selecting a college that supports you in those immediate needs, and assists you in preparing for graduate or professional school (healthcare, law, MBA, etc.), will be imperative.
What type of physical space do you want to spend four years of your life in? Most of us go to high school in the town our parents decided we’d live in. This is likely the first time you'll get to decide if you want to go to college close to home or somewhere you'd love to live while studying.
Is it life in the mountains or somewhere closer to the sea so you can learn to surf? You get to decide if you want to live in a smaller college town, where you can relax in the security of a campus that has a great relationship with the city. Or, you can decide to live in an urban area with the hustle and bustle of big city life. Different environments also have different costs associated with them (transportation, clothing, cost of food, and entertainment). It adds up fast!
Does the idea of snow for 6 months thrill you (snowboarding!) or does it make you want to curl up and hibernate? How you feel in your physical space can help or hinder you in your academic life. It’s all about balancing the needs of your whole person, not just chasing a degree.
It's common to start researching your colleges by checking their websites. Don't forget to follow their social media, too. Even reaching out to current students can help you get to know the personality of the campus. Are there students that you can relate to? Do they seem to be helpful and kind to each other? Is physical/mental health a priority? Is academic support easily accessible? What clubs and teams are available to you? You want to choose a college that you’d be proud to call your family so get picky!
How do we measure up?
I can’t tell you if UC Davis is the right fit for you, just as my new best friend at the shoe shop couldn’t decide for me what shoes I should buy.
I can tell you that UC Davis is a large public research university situated in a lovely small college town. Our students are such an integral part of our community that we all rely on them for our high quality of life here.
We have beautiful spaces to study, relax, lounge, and nap on our 5,000+ acres of campus. All these things will need to measure up to or surpass your expectations to be the right fit. Take your time. If you ask yourself the questions presented here and look beyond superficial things like rankings and brand recognition, you’ll make the right decision for you, wherever you end up.