I recently came across an article Meeting Kids Where They Are by Bill Gates. The article highlights the value of colleges and universities that rarely, if ever, make "The Best Schools" lists. No, these schools don't carry the prestige of a Harvard or Yale, but their purpose and function is just as noble: they serve the kids who aren't a right fit for the likes of Princeton or Columbia.
See, here's the thing about finding the best fit school: it's about more than academics. All of those schools listed above are great academic institutions, and yet each one of them has it's own unique vibe, which I often call culture. One school might be full of geniuses and have a culture of competitiveness, while another might have the same academic caliber of students, but the culture might be one of collaboration, where kids don't see each other as threats but as true peers. The way a student experiences those two places are radically different.
When deciding between schools, we have to remember that schools are not just places for our kid's brains, they are also places for their social selves, their emotional selves. A great friend once said a school is responsible for "addressing students' IQ while expanding their EQ". I promptly wrote it down because this–this is truth! Looking at rankings alone neglects half of the equation, more than half for those students who are more socially inclined.
So when you are laying out your options and trying to decide between schools, ask yourself two questions:
- Beyond academics, what kind of school does my child need? In what conditions does my child thrive?
- Where is my child socially/emotionally? What are his strengths/challenges in those areas and what would a school that meets him where he is offer?
And if the school that you're left with isn't a highly ranked one, that's okay. The best school is the one that meets your child right where he is and develops in him the personal confidence, sense of efficacy and academic skills to realize his full potential. What could be more valuable than that?
The options and opportunities are vast and as unique as your child. Don't be afraid to look for the best fit.
If you are applying to schools next admissions season, register for our online course Choose Well: The Ultimate Guide for Choosing the Right Schools. We've taken the process we use when working one on one with our families and put it online for families everywhere. This course will help you take you the steps to find the right school for your son or daughter.