Finding the Perfect Fit
By maggie canty-shafer
June 10, 2011
In an effort to save you some research time (and a possible nervous breakdown), we spoke to several admissions counselors from various types of educational institutions (Christian university, state school, media school and private college) about the most important elements to consider when deciding on a school.
Below is what the experts have to say about what they have to offer—and what you need to do to find your perfect fit.
- Larry Hoezee: Executive Director of Resident Enrollment Management for Liberty University; private, nonprofit, Christian, Lynchburg, VA
- Ian Fisher: Senior Assistant Dean of Admission at Reed College; private, secular, liberal arts and sciences, Portland, VA
- Jamaal Curry: Admissions Counselor, Colorado State University; public, secular, research university, Fort Collins, CO
- Mary Beth Plank: Vice President of Admissions, Full Sail University; private, for-profit, entertainment media, Winter Park, FL
What are the benefits of attending a private Christian school?
Larry Hoezee: A private Christian university offers opportunities for you to learn how to defend your faith and ground yourself in the Bible. Students at Liberty gain an understanding of the major tenets of Christianity, and explore topics important to morality and faith.
What are the benefits of attending a private secular school?
Ian Fisher: Private, secular institutions tend to attract people with open minds and a strong sense of inquisitiveness about the way the world works. Whether students come from a religious or secular background, they gather at non-religious institutions to challenge their own ideas and the ideas of others, to encounter new and unique perspectives on the world, and to revel in the diversity this sort of atmosphere can offer.
The small nature of private colleges tends to create groups in which students can meet and engage with people from diverse points of view, simply because class sizes tend to be so small.
What are the benefits of attending a school geared toward a specific field of work?
Mary Beth Plank: Full Sail University’s philosophy is to give our students a complete education that brings together hands-on experience, traditional classroom work and industry- specific career development throughout their education; that unique combination will allow our students to gain the knowledge and tools they’ll need to succeed in this industry.
What are the benefits of attending a public state school?
Jamaal Curry: Our students go in a lot of directions after graduation, and I think the college/university should act as a springboard to help students get in that direction they want to go in.
But really, I think it comes back to the best fit. I could see benefits to going to a private school if that’s where the student feels like they would get the most out of their college experience. But public state schools are nothing to shake a stick at. We both have large and small classes, both might have athletics and other ways for students to get involved. But if you happen to be a resident of the state of the public school you’re interested in, it doesn’t hurt to have that cheaper tuition.
What are the most important things students should consider when deciding on a school?
Hoezee: Include God in your college search. Pray about the universities you are considering, and look for the school where God is calling you. Consider what you want to major in, and whether you are looking for a fast-track to a specific career or prefer to explore many academic disciplines. Does your personality lend itself to a large campus community, or would you prefer to be a big fish in a little pond? Seek out the counsel of your parents and friends who have been through the college selection process.
Fisher: Because students frequently change their subjects of academic interest, I think it’s most important for students to consider the academic philosophy of the institutions to which they intend to apply. How are classes taught? How big are they? How involved are faculty? Do you have opportunities to engage in research in a wide range of departments? Answering these questions can be helpful in determining the kind of environment that is best suited to educate a particular student. Of equal consideration is the kind of students that attend. One should ask, “Are these the kinds of people I want to spend four years learning and growing with?”
Plank: Our admissions department is committed throughout the entire process to helping those who are interested in attending Full Sail, guiding them through each step and answering any questions they may have along the way. The first step in the enrollment process is to schedule an interview with an admissions representative, which will give those interested in attending Full Sail the opportunity to ask any questions they may have and, most importantly, determine whether Full Sail is right for them. Anything that’s on their mind—from housing and scheduling to curriculum and financial aid—please ask us. We want those who are interested in attending Full Sail to make an informed decision when it comes to one of the most important choices in their life.
Curry: I tell students they will spend a lot of time and money at an institution, so they want to make sure it’s a good fit. Each student’s process may be different, but one thing to consider might be location—do you want to go far or stay close to home? Also, location relative to the beach, mountains or other activities you might be interested in. One big component are the programs the school offers. Also, the size of the school, cost to attend and opportunities to be involved while in school, and even post-graduate connections. Our alum can still access several services within our career center.There are so many things to think about, and it’s a big decision. But even with all the practical and pragmatic things to consider, don’t completely leave out the emotional side. How do you “feel” when you’re on campus? Do you feel like it’s a good fit for you, and also are you a good fit for the school? This is why I strongly encourage students to visit colleges and universities they’re interested in, if it’s feasible both time-wise and financially.
What qualities do you look for in your students?
Hoezee: For the past three years, Liberty has received a record number of applicants and has had to close enrollment for the fall semester. As a result, we strive to accept students who are academically strong, interested in growing in their faith and enthusiastic about attending Liberty. We look for students who will whole-heartedly embrace the university’s mission of training champions for Christ.
Fisher: The admissions office seeks students with a genuine passion for academics and an innate curiosity in intellectual pursuits. We strive to fill the campus with mature and ethical community members who engage in respectful and spirited conversation about the best way to shape a college community. Students who respectfully engage in discussion with passion and enthusiasm are the perfect fits for Reed.
Plank: Full Sail believes, “If you are serious about your dream, we will take your dream seriously.” Students that attend Full Sail have a passion and dedication for their future career and are looking to obtain the knowledge and real-world experience that will help them realize their career goals in the entertainment and media industry.
Curry: When we review an application, we use a holistic review. Part of that means we are looking at the student academically and personally. Within the academics, we’re not just looking for a GPA and test score, we also want to know how you got there—Honors, AP, IB classes, etc. Also, what are the trends in your grades—down, consistent or up from freshman year? We want to see what you do in your free time—work, sports, community service, etc. We want to see that students are involved and engaged right where they are in high school, in hopes that will translate right into college. We want to see well-rounded students who are making a difference or at least want to make a difference. And while we love 4.0 GPAs in admissions, we also want to see that you are engaged in your community (school, family, neighborhood) and not just solely focused on the books.
What financial aid options does your school offer?
Hoezee: More than 95 percent of Liberty students receive financial aid. In fact, last school year Liberty awarded the most student state grant aid in Virginia. The university also awards scholarship funds based on academic performance and financial need. Veterans and military students may also be eligible for additional scholarships and benefits.
Fisher: Reed is an institution that offers financial aid solely on the basis of financial need. Our average financial aid package of $33,000 includes loans, grants and work-study opportunities. About half of the Reed student body is on financial aid.
Plank: Many people have commented about the positive experiences they have had while working with Full Sail’s financial aid team. We take pride in having a staff that is committed to working one-on-one with every person that enters our doors in search of financial assistance.
Curry: Financial aid in and of itself is a broad range of money sources, and we offer lots of aid to our students. Last year, CSU awarded somewhere in the range of $180-$200 million in aid. We offer grants, scholarships, loans and work-study to students who qualify. We are also excited about our new initiative for Colorado families called the “Commitment to Colorado,” in which we will pay either half or full tuition for students whose families meet certain guidelines.
Does your school have programs or organizations for Christians?
Fisher: As a secular institution of higher learning, Reed strives to provide an environment that is open to all denominations and faiths. At Reed, “Oh For Christ’s Sake” is the long-standing club for Christians. In addition to regular meetings to discuss Scripture and talk about issues of faith, many students find time to attend church on a regular basis throughout the Portland community.
Curry: Several national Christian organizations have a presence on campus—Campus Crusade for Christ, Navigators, RUF [Reformed University Fellowship], etc. Plus, there are several local churches that have Bible study or meetings on campus or locally. There are lots of ways for students of the Christian faith to be connected on campus.
Are there job opportunities both on and off campus?
Hoezee: Yes, there are hundreds of federal work-study jobs available to students on campus and posted on the human resources website. Many job opportunities and internships are also available in the Lynchburg community.
Fisher: Yes. In addition to job opportunities in various on-campus offices, Reed’s career services office frequently publishes lists of jobs and internships available for students both in the city of Portland and the United States at large. Faculty also assist students in tracking down summer employment.
Plank: At Full Sail, we share our students’ passion—and their drive to turn that passion into a rewarding career. Our innovative approach to curriculum means they’ll be getting a real-world education that combines project-based assignments and industry-standard workflows, giving them working experience while they’re still in school. Our Global Professionalism Standard program helps develop their interpersonal and professional skills. Throughout their time at Full Sail—and even after graduation—the career development department will be available to provide guidance to help students plot their career course.
Curry: One of the best things about CSU is the relationship the school has with the city of Fort Collins and its business community. Many local businesses employ our students and CSU employs many in the community. Students can also work on campus in a variety of arenas—the university bookstore, library, residence halls, labs, departments, etc. Once students get to campus, I think they’ll see just how many opportunities there are. But no one is going to come knock on your residence hall room door and ask if you want a job. Like anything else, take the initiative, look on RAMweb, look in our campus newspaper, etc., and pursue that job you might want.