right arrow
Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Upcoming changes to the way we log in on College Confidential. Read more here.

"Fit" .... as mysterious as the luminiferous aether...

boardnotboredboardnotbored 1 replies2 threads New Member
Honestly, I am as perplexed as can be at the idea of "fit". Every school has a website full of smiling lacrosse players; plucky young mathematicians up at smart boards being plucky; laughing bff's in an endless-sleepover pose on pragmatic institutional furniture munching on dorm-head made cookies in fabulous common rooms; campuses that make those of us coming from local LPS's drool with a dumbfounded stare at the incomprehensible grandeur, beauty and (seemingly) limitless resources.

Is "an example of fit" town versus rural? Well, it seems the day is so packed that the setting won't make all that much of a difference-- except at the margin for a small percentage of kids who have a visceral reaction to the idea of a Starbucks being too {close | far}. What about other markers of "fit"? Is it the size of a school? If so, why are kids having a tough choice between (this is just an example) Middlesex or Andover? Exeter or Deerfield? Certainly, size can impact a decision-- I'm not arguing it is immaterial. My point is simply that "fit" isn't likely to really be about size, or we'd find some large subset of kids (with "fit" directed parents) applying only to {big schools | small schools}.

My child is telling me quite clearly that "fit" is a feeling-- a"vibe" you get on the campus. But (and maybe I am too Spock-like here) this seems utterly capricious. If the pool of tour guides is n large, and the pool of AO's that are interviewing at any given time is q large. Then any kid showing up on any day could have (q*n) combinations of experiences. Some of these will be good (great tour guide >> for that prospective kid + great interviewer >> for that prospective kid) and some will be bad. Does this mean that the elusive "fit" is really just a randomized outcome? We tour on a Wednesday with Sam and Mr. Jones: THIS IS THE BEST SCHOOL EVER! But if we had scheduled on Friday and ended up with Tad and Ms. Harper: "This school is OFF the list! OFF! OFF! OFF!" As far as our experience has been so far, my assessment (not my child's) the entire sense of "fit" comes from the conjunction of three factors: tour guide/interviewer/facilities. And 2 out of 3 of those are pretty random.

Now it's true, some schools can absolutely be eliminated as not being a good "fit". We've eliminated many this way. And my inner-Spock has been quite satisfied with the eliminations. Some schools aren't a good "fit" because they don't have the sport or EC that matters (for a particular kid). Some aren't a good fit because of a particular curriculum issue. (i.e. the school that lacks Japanese for a kid who wants to learn it; a kid who doesn't want Harkness because of self-perceptions of introversion, etc.). Some aren't a good fit because of access to airports, etc. etc.

But after these "not good fit" schools are eliminated, there is still an exceedingly long list of schools that-- while not being in any sense "interchangeable" (some big/some small/small rural/some urban-ish/some preppy/some sporty/some hippie/some nature-y)-- are all sort of uniquely-same-ish. Here (via a story) is what I mean by that gibberish mix of words that might seem nonsensical: two college mates got into a disagreement about the veracity of the horoscope as a tool for self-knowledge. One was a tried-and-true believer, the other a steadfast empiricist. The empiricist cut all the horoscopes out of some source that the believer vouched for, and then cut off all the names, leaving just 12 descriptions. The empiricist asked the believer to choose which one was his. This task proved nearly impossible, much to the delight of the empiricist and dismay of the believer. The point of this digression is to ask: if we cut up all the school look books, all the catalogs, all the great writing on all of the great websites, and mixed them all up (randomizing school colors with the help of some digital artistry), would the "fit" believers be able to untangle the school's marketing materials? Or at the end of the day, are all the plucky mathematicians just as plucky? Does "fit" exist only in the same way that a horoscope "truly describes" the believer? ie. requiring the believer to come to the narrative with a self-fulfilling faith in it's accuracy? Or is "fit" something real? And if so, what is it? What is it composed of? What is this luminiferous aether?
15 replies
· Reply · Share

Replies to: "Fit" .... as mysterious as the luminiferous aether...

  • boardnotboredboardnotbored 1 replies2 threads New Member
    Thus, the essence of the question: is it the case that one or more of the following must be true?

    (1) every school that remains on a list (not eliminated as a "bad fit") is basically a good fit (even if there are huge discernible differences in the schools)-- and this idea of "fit" will be deeply justified ex post facto: "I got into Westfield and Pomover-- (but once I chose Pomover) -- it was/is obvious (ahem) and has ALWAYS been obvious, this is the only school for me!";
    (2) The idea that school x is the best "fit" is (falsely) derived from random events (tour guide/AO) which are taken as much more meaningful signifiers than they should be;
    (3) DC is right-- "fit" is actually a thing, and I am just way too left-brained to ever be able to grok it. :)
    **If 3: please explain!
    · Reply · Share
  • whatisyourquestwhatisyourquest 739 replies9 threads Member
    edited July 2017
    Our experience in the college search didn't lead to a long list of schools that are interchangeable. In addition to big vs small, there is private vs public, climate, proximity to urban areas, strength with respect to the kid's desired major, class sizes, financial aid, prevalence of crime, appearance/upkeep of the buildings/campus... and other factors that the parents and kid think establish a good "fit." The intersection in the Venn diagram of all of these criteria can be quite small, or even empty. So, "fit" really can knock out a ton of universities.

    The subjective tastes of the kid can also eliminate options. There is a CC thread about the dumbest reasons that kids cross off universities... which include the university name, mascot, school colors, and so on.

    Finally, universities train their tour guides, and the AOs surely know their role and audience. So, if the tour guide/AO combo on one day is poor, then a different tour guide/AO combo at that university on another day is also likely to be poor, and simply an indication that the university either doesn't care about potential applicants or is oblivious to the impact of first impressions.

    edited July 2017
    · Reply · Share
  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5944 replies10 threads Senior Member
    For prep schools. .. Yes, there will be some randomness in terms of what happens on the day when you visit. I know people who have gone back on admitted student days and not been matched with a student to shadow whom they didn't like and as a result, gone elsewhere. But there are things that you can suss out in advance.

    Are the things you do available? Are the things you don't do but just might consider accessible? (This may mean thirds for certain sports or opportunities to perform in musical groups without being enrolled in a class.) Some schools are much more diverse and better at inclusive type than others - does this matter?

    Some schools have more structure to their days, especially for underclassmen. Are you better off being assigned to a study hall in a time block when you have no class or would you be okay if you could use that time anyway you like? Does the school have a competitive culture? Do you want formal dress or casual?

    These schools all tend to offer great academics and many kids will do fine wherever they end up. As a parent, I was interested in the values of the schools and their communities as well, feeling that this would have some impact on who my kid would grow up to be in that environment. At some, I picked up on things that just didn't appeal to me. And honestly, they were a draw for others.

    I know one parent who liked a school because the kids were loud and lively and he felt that the kids weren't having the happiness wrung out of them. Another parent disliked the same school because it was too "loose".

    My advice is to apply if you like it and think it would work. The admissions offices are particularly good at assessing which kids will fit and which ones will not. Getting the fit right is critical to the BS as well. Their reputations depend on whether the kids they admit thrive there.
    · Reply · Share
  • CTMom21CTMom21 478 replies2 threads Member
    We don't have any actual BS experience or hindsight yet to test this, but for us, I think "fit" was a combination of a school meeting the objective criteria we and DS were looking for (size, distance from home, sports he plays, availability of academic support, etc.), other factors that emerged as we toured various schools (campus layout, dorms), and the more visceral "vibe," atmosphere, etc. -- the subjective feeling of "can I picture myself/my son attending school here or not?" After his tour/interview and then a shadow day, my son's reactions (at the school he'll be attending) were along the lines of, "These kids are like me. I could have just stayed there." When we were going to the revisit day, he said he felt like he was "going home." What more could I ask for? As parents, we know that some of the impression created by a school is due to the choices they make in their open house, interview approach and revisit day, and those choices are important. Are they trying to make the kid and family feel comfortable, or just trying to impress them and be impressive? Is the approach more individualized or more rigid? Multiple visits are helpful, either to confirm your first impression or correct for a "dud" tour guide or vice versa. The subjective factors may be more important to some kids than others; DS is pretty sensitive to his physical surroundings and to people. It's not about the most rigorous academics and going to an Ivy for him. He's going to a small school, so I'm hopeful that admissions did a good job in identifying a group of kids that are a good fit. I would say trust your gut, and investigate any red flags, because ultimately you need to be comfortable that your child will be happy and that the school is looking out for his/her best interests.
    · Reply · Share
  • ChoatieMomChoatieMom 5325 replies249 threads Senior Member
    Fit is totally subjective, so it just comes down to which of the schools that make your list you like best, for whatever reason(s). Our objective was simply to get a great high school education. Pretty much any BS would have met that criteria, so I used "prettiest campus" as my subjective winnower (not kidding). If you're going to spend several years in a place, why not pick one that delights your personal aesthetic? Our son, who made the final decision, used other no-less-valid criteria. He did not pick the school I picked. Of course he thinks his BS is the best, but I'm absolutely certain he would have said the same about any school he attended. (He's saying the same thing about his college now but, again, not the one I would have picked.)

    As it turned out, we should have made "proximity to airports" a deal-breaker, but that is hindsight.

    So, I think choosing the best BS for you is like that famous quote about porn: You know it when you see it.

    And remember, you don't get to make that final decision until you have acceptances. Sometimes, M10 will make this decision for you.

    Good luck! I don't believe you can go wrong with any school that makes your final apply-to list.
    · Reply · Share
  • cababe97cababe97 427 replies37 threads Member
    There are so many things to consider when deciding on a school. It is really important to take many things into account. You shouldn't completely write off a school just because of your AO and your guide(s) but they are also something to think about. While you want to take into account how the student tour guides treated you, you should remember that not every student is like that and that student doesn't represent the whole student body.

    Not all boarding schools are the same! It can be hard to tell from the websites but that is why it is important to visit. Every school has a very different feel. Here are some things to consider.

    - Size of school
    - Size of classes
    - Sports and other extracurriculsrs offered
    - Strength of certain academic departments (i.e. Stronger in math and science, humanities, etc.)
    - advisor system
    - dorm setting
    - location
    - distance from a city
    - anything else that might impact you
    - and most importantly, what feeling/vibe do you get from the school? I visited 6 schools. I felt like a guest at most schools. I felt a bit out of place. At the school I go to now, Berkshire, it felt like home and I immeaditly felt comfortable on campus. It was a place where I could imagine myself.

    Sometimes there may not be an obvious differentiator on schools based off what you see on the website but if you visit the schools, you will see otherwise. Especially for the prospective students, it is where they are going to be attending so listen to them! I can't stress this enough! I can't truly pin point exactly what made me feel like a guest at others schools and at home at my current school, but my gut just told me.

    There are many factors to consider that make a school a "fit". Every school is different and no school is the same.
    · Reply · Share
  • applejuice007applejuice007 151 replies17 threads Junior Member
    For me, "fit" was a gut instinct. When I visited Choate, I immediately loved it and it was my favorite school to visit. When I visited other schools (i.e. Andover and Exeter) I tried to force myself to like it but I really didn't. The campuses didn't feel right to me, and I didn't feel welcomed. In all honesty, Choate wasn't my top choice. It was up there, obviously, but I really wanted to go to Andover. This was because I judged the schools on more trivial matters than what really was best for me. We'll see how it goes, but I am extremely excited for Choate and I wouldn't have had it turn out any other way.
    · Reply · Share
  • Nico.campbellNico.campbell 709 replies18 threads Member
    edited July 2017
    The comment about the plucky mathematicians honestly made me laugh. So did the one about horrible Tad and Ms. Harper. Every bs site does have the plucky mathematician photo.

    I honestly never felt that "feeling" at any of the schools in person. From the beginning, two schools were at the top of my list: Choate and Andover. When I got waitlisted at Andover and accepted at Choate, the decision was made!

    I based fit off of:

    location - I need to have the freedom to walk into town or just off campus to ANYWHERE or I will lose my mind.

    size - I prefer larger schools, but that didn't stop me from applying to smaller ones. I've had bad experiences at my small private day school and I will never go back to a grade with less than 100 people.

    dress code - this sound SOOO stupid and I hate it but I will go insane if I have to dress in a way that I don't like. I just want to wear the clothes that make me happy and collared shirts with pullovers and khakis are not that.

    the students - I do not want all kids from NE (diversity), and I don't want annoyingly competitive teenagers - I want kids like myself who just want to learn together and do their best. I also payed tons of attention to what the kids were wearing - I'm sorry but I can't stand too much preppy clothing (or I'm just not accustomed to it: in Colorado, 'dressing up' is jeans (or chinos?) and a flannel button-down.

    campus - once again this sounds a bit stupid but I want a campus with both old new-englandy buildings and nice modern ones. I want variation. This eventually turned me off of Middlesex - almost all of the buildings I saw looked identical from the exterior (and dress code!).

    The two biggest factors for me were dress code and location.

    Both Choate and Andover (in my opinion) met my location/size/dress code/campus preferances, so they were at the top. I had an incredibly strange and regretable interview with Andover but I didn't let that change my feelings. I had an AMAZING interview with Choate and all that did was reassure me that I loved Choate - mostly because my AO gave me the answers I was hoping for when it came time for me to ask questions.

    Maybe it was an advantage for me to not visit the schools before applying? I know that it was definitely exciting coming in with no idea of what to expect for revisit day...

    It was the weirdest thing. After spending a matter of minutes Choate's website and especially after my interview, I just knew that it was 150% what I was looking for. I hadn't even seen the full campus or met any students but I just knew I would like the people there. I realized I was totally right after revisit day.



    edited July 2017
    · Reply · Share
  • GarandmanGarandman 219 replies9 threads Junior Member
    edited September 2017
    My family has had the opportunity to revisit school choice this summer. The factors most important to us as parents this time around were:

    1. The involvement of dorm parents with students. Numerically, this ranged from three dorm parents (only one "on duty" at any given time) for nearly 40 kids, down to four or five for 20-something kids.

    2. Is there a single person responsible for your child's welfare and success, or is it a "team?" Our experience with the "team" approach was not good: they seldom communicated and we never heard from some of them. If it's an individual, how are they assigned, how often do they meet, and what happens if your child doesn't get along? Having a trusted advisor on campus is crucial.

    3. What does the course catalog look like and what is actually available? Some schools list hundreds (I believe the record is 409) of courses but the number of sections available and prerequisites are such that many will never be accessible. Some schools will split off into two sections of 7 and 8 students once the course signup reaches 14, while others will not. So if you are #15, you've got a scheduling problem.

    The above are not questions student tour guides often hear, but they have been ready to share, in very honest fashion, their personal experience.

    Governor's Academy published a statement on their website from RISC that may be useful in expanding your idea of what "fit" means. http://www.thegovernorsacademy.org/page.cfm?p=526

    And their Admissions Director wrote the following:

    "Who I am may be different from who I will be.

    The choice to look at private schools is often predicated on a child’s particular talent or need, and that is both good and risky. If a student has a particular academic proclivity or passion or a wonderful talent in a co-curricular area, it is, of course, important to make sure that the choice of school has depth and stability in that area.

    That said, I would offer that the 14 year old who enters the admission process will have changed as much by the time she is 18 years old as she has between 10 and 14. This is a harder concept for the student to embrace, but it is important to look at new interests and passions, even though they may not yet be considered talents, and consider whether the best school may be one with depth in an area of known strength and the range of offerings that may capture a future talent or need."


    edited September 2017
    Post edited by MaineLonghorn on
    · Reply · Share
  • preppedparentpreppedparent 3341 replies10 threads Senior Member
    My oldest only applied to 4 schools we had ever heard of: Choate, Deerfield, Andover and Exeter. Exeter showed some interest in her field hockey, and she got into Choate and WL at Deerfield. Choate and Andover topped her list, but they were truly neck and neck. She wanted a mid to large sized school no more than 2 hours from home, a place to do sports and study Economics. Choate had the best Economics award winning team.

    For second student, we were a bit more savvy and cast a wider net: Milton, Groton, Hotchkiss, Choate, Deerfield, Exeter, Andover, St. George's, and SPS. She thought she wanted the Classics diploma that only Hotchkiss and Exeter (out of this group) conferred. She wanted a small to mid sized school, so Milton, Groton and Hotchkiss topped her list. She got waitlisted at all 3, but admitted to Choate where her sister attended.

    Sometimes, the schools pick for you unfortunately. A friend of mine had the same experience. Both his students ended up at Andover. For those with sibs, be aware that its possible the schools want to keep families together, not always, but in our case, it definitely seemed it happened where Choate has a lot of sibling pairs accepted. In the end, second student loved Choate and she enjoyed the foreign language signature programs there. The key is you may not get into your first choice school, or the one you think is best fit, but in the end, make use of the opportunities that are presented to you and most of these schools present many to their students. You can't go wrong.
    · Reply · Share
  • CenterCenter 2204 replies66 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2017
    I think "FIT" is a bit like the psychology of human attraction. As we know half of marriages now end in divorce. LOL. I second @preppedparent that much of the time the schools pick the applicant verses the other way around. Admissions is very different now than it was 25 years ago and obviously the decades before that. Many factors, some good ,some simply symptoms of political correctness affect admissions: race, gender, geography, finances, legacies, sports/ECs and nearly everything is divided by 2 by gender and then in baskets by color etc. The spots are far less than many even realize. Not to derail the topic of "FIT" but I think you can only hope there is a good fit and if less than ideal it is the learning experience in preparation for the modern world.
    edited July 2017
    · Reply · Share
  • PeriwinklePeriwinkle 3403 replies105 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2017
    It might help to read Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell. Another good book is The Gift of Fear, by Gavin deBecker. Both authors make the point that at times what seem to be snap judgements, intuitions or "feelings," are reactions to small details your mind notices while paying attention to other things.

    I have the impression that some students are drawn to small schools, some to large schools. Some like a school in which sports determine the social climate, while others prefer a school in which the drama kids are more influential.

    Boarding schools sometimes (often?) exist in "bubbles." They are small, self-contained communities. If the fit between the student and the school community as a whole is not good, it can be a difficult situation. As far as I know, every year some students change boarding schools for reasons of fit. It does not say that the new school is better than the old school.

    No matter how glittering the academic offerings and reputation of a school might be, I would really worry about a child who complained after several months at school that he or she "has no friends." Boarding schools can be very isolating for an unhappy child. (If you haven't seen the novel, check out Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld.)

    Perhaps the best summation of it is Willy Claflin's phrase, "if you feel like you're a puppy dog being raised in a family of sharks..."
    edited July 2017
    · Reply · Share
  • buuzn03buuzn03 1580 replies15 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2017
    @ChoatieMom had to chuckle at your use of describing the "fit". Spot on, although I never would have thought to describe it as such. @CTMom21 I think you've described DS's response/reaction to his top 2 schools...thank goodness he was accepted to one of them. @Nico.campbell --ALWAYS good to see your input. Although you did not visit schools prior to March 10, you went to many on revisit days and I am sure I am not the only one who could tell from your reports, you found your fit in Choate.
    One thing I'd like to point out is that the visit with students on campus is absolutely necessary. My DS top choice for years (he started visiting early, as BS was an early childhood goal of his) was based on summer visits to campus. It was an idyllic setting. When he interviewed and saw how everyone there interacted....the school dropped several notches on his list. The reverse is true for his #2 school (which is where he will be going next month)...the summer visit was "eh" ... nothing stood out, there were a few things (all concrete) that didn't check of his boxes. But then, on interview day, the people, the students, the faculty...the "spirit" of the school was very palpable...and it was exactly the "fit" he'd been looking for.
    So, yes, I'd say "fit" is very nebulous and intangible thing that is very very important to finding the right school. And what might seem to fit the parents may not be what fits the student! Happy hunting!
    edited July 2017
    · Reply · Share
  • applejuice007applejuice007 151 replies17 threads Junior Member
    Another book suggestion would be Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. It deals with snap judgements (although it also focuses on economics)
    · Reply · Share
This discussion has been closed.

Recent Activity