The Right Fit


The PJ Test: My brunch with six friends yesterday gave me food for thought: Of the four couples, my husband and I were the only ones who hadn’t met at college! It got me thinking about how these people had met in their late teens and early twenties, and how they are still together, many years later. And it made me think about the “fit” of college, and how each of these individuals, whether they knew it at the time or not, choose their school, in great part, because of a feeling of social inclusion.

I hear from clients all the time about how much their child is enjoying their new college, and they almost always say, “It’s the perfect place for someone like _____.” As the couples I met with yesterday would attest, success and happiness at a school have a lot to do with feeling like you are among like-minded individuals, those who share your core values and way of looking at the world.

When students travel to look at schools, I often tell them to picture themselves in the cafeteria in a pair of pajamas, and to see if when they close their eyes they feel comfortable in their imagination. While I wouldn’t want my students choosing schools based solely on the PJ Test, a general feeling of emotional safety equates with a feeling of belonging, which is key if one is to thrive.

So when you are visiting colleges, please make sure to validate your child’s feelings. When they say, “I hate this place!” they probably do. And when they say, “I love it; I can see myself here,” even if they can’t articulate their reasons why, it’s probably a good idea to trust them. Because finding a school that speaks to one’s academic interests isn’t enough; a ‘right fit’ school also must address the need for a welcoming and nurturing community—a community where one could quite possibly find a soul mate.