Based on the Challenge Success survey data of more than 100,000 high school students across the country, we know that the college admissions process can often be a top source of stress and anxiety for students. While many schools, counselors, and parents encourage students to focus on finding the “right fit” college, this advice can be difficult to follow without a better understanding of what “fit” means and what matters most — both for learning and engagement in college — and for life outcomes beyond college.
This paper reviews and synthesizes key research in order to address many of the important questions and concerns we hear from students, parents, and schools about the college admissions process: What do college rankings really measure? Are students who attend more selective colleges better off later in life? What is “fit” and why does it matter?