US Universities – What is meant by Fit?

US Universities – What is meant by Fit?

27 Nov 2023

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This informal CPD article ‘US Universities – What is meant by Fit?’ was provided by UES Education, specialists in international university and school admissions, working with top schools across the UK and Europe to provide a bespoke service for those who want the best possible application support in the UK.

When students apply to US universities, admissions officers consider more than just grades. US admissions are holistic, which means admission decisions are also informed by additional components like activities, essays, letters of recommendation, and US university admission test scores. This can make it harder for schools and teachers to advise students about their chances of getting into particular US universities: it is much easier to advise students on this when universities specify the grades they require, as they do in the UK.

But don’t worry: teachers and schools can help students create good college lists and make informed choices about where to apply. To do this, students should be encouraged to investigate the idea of fit.

What is University Fit

University fit refers to the idea that a student and their profile—including the aspects mentioned above—are a good match for a specific university, its community, and its values. This includes both academic fit and a more cultural fit. For example, certain universities might be looking for students who care deeply about serving their community, or students who are very intellectual and focused on academics, or students who have a strong sense of ethics and personal character. Even if a student has three A*s and was head boy and captain of the rugby team, if they don’t fit into a specific US university’s culture, they are unlikely to be admitted!

It can be helpful to shift the thinking of parents and schools away from wanting students to attend ‘the best’ universities as determined by things like rankings, and towards helping students find and access universities that are the best for them: for their unique skills, interests, and perspectives. Just because a university is prestigious and highly ranked does not mean it will be the best choice for every student.

Benefits of University Fit

Rather than viewing the idea of university fit as something daunting, it can be helpful to reframe it as a great opportunity for students to find universities that really match their personalities, learning styles, and values. It does mean that a bit more knowledge and research is required on the parts of students, advisors, and schools, but it is worth the while to ensure not only student success at university, but in the wider world awaiting them.

Additionally, the process can be made much easier with organisation and forward planning. By encouraging students to investigate their values and what they want from the university experience in the second half of year 12, they can then create strong college lists shaped around this idea of fit.

How to find University Fit

To guide students in finding their fit, there are a few things teachers and advisers can do. Listing out factors for choosing a university (like size, location, curriculum, values, etc.) and encouraging students to rank each factor by how important it is to them is a good start. Once students know what they want from their US university experience, they can use online search tools and college websites to find out more. One way that schools can help students target good-fit universities is to set up panel events with universities at their school. If it’s possible for students to visit US universities in person, this can also be valuable.

Be aware: financial fit is the most important element of university admissions. Students and families must make sure they can afford the full cost of attendance or understand what financial aid is available before applying. Getting this wrong can mean an offer from a university that is simply not viable. The good news is that with the right research, getting aid (need-based or merit-based) is entirely possible.


When supporting students applying to US universities, it is crucial for teachers, advisers, and schools to be aware of the holistic admission process and the importance of fit in making admissions decisions. Even the most academically stellar students have no guarantee that they will be admitted to highly competitive US universities, due to the way that admissions decisions are made. There are plenty of amazing universities out there for students with all sorts of profiles, so thinking about fit and researching good-fit universities is extremely worthwhile.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from UES Education, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, you can go to the CPD Industry Hubs for more articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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For more information from UES Education, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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