Going to college is more important than ever before. In today’s specialized world, most employers are starting to see higher education as a necessity. But college is about more than just education.

Students do best when they’re enthusiastic about learning, and the best way to ensure that is to have a college environment that suits their personal tastes, both in and out of the classroom. This can be far more important than finding a school with a good name.

The best fit

“A school has a brand,” says Robert Franek, senior vice president and publisher at The Princeton Review, “And that brand might be a perceptual brand. You might say that all of the Ivies are going to provide students a great life and a successful future … but they’re going to be right for some students and not right for others. If you only looked at brand and perception, then you’re only looking at a tiny slice of what’s going to make you happy and successful at that school.”

From campus culture to financial aid, career services to diversity issues, the factors that go into finding the right school can be overwhelming to students and their parents. Before deciding on a school, it’s crucial to be informed about every aspect of the process you’re entering into. With so many different factors to pay attention to, it’s easy to get lost. So, where should a prospective student begin?

“Before deciding on a school, it’s crucial to be informed about every aspect of the process you’re entering into.”

Going to the source

“The first step is finding out what real college experts are saying about their experiences, says Franek. And the best college experts are current college students. Are their professors good teachers? Do they encourage class discussion? Do they bring their class content to life?” And, of course, students can give you the best idea of what campus life is like outside of the classroom. “Do they like the dorms? How’s the food? Are students interested in athletics? Partying?”

Finding the resources that give you these student perspectives, rather than a university’s sales pitch, is crucial. The Princeton Review, for example, surveys over 143,000 current college students to collect data to compare schools to one another.

Once you’ve internalized the idea of good fit and equipped yourself with student information, you can get the most out of your campus visits and open houses because you’ll know the key questions to ask.

Of course, narrowing down a list of ‘best fits’ is just the beginning. Students need to be prepared to apply and actually attend their dream school.

Getting accepted

“If you’re a high school student,” says Franek, a former admission counselor and college expert who visits more than 50 colleges a year, “You have to do two things. One: You have to be awesome in high school. This is your job. You need to do well academically … the most important thing for any admissions committee is always going to be your high school GPA. Did you challenge yourself? How well did you do? And two: you must do well on standardized tests.”

For standardized tests, a huge factor is building a student’s confidence. “There’s a ton of anxiety,” says Franek, “These are high-stakes tests. If you can diffuse the frenzy around the SAT or ACT and make a confident test-taker, then they’re going to perform better.

Building confidence

Everything you can do to make your student feel more confident and supported academically will be crucial to their success in the college admissions process. The Princeton Review’s innovative online products provide constant access to the best test prep, homework help and college admissions counselingTogether these services provide students the support they need to excel on tests and homework assignments, with the goal of achieving an academically compelling college application.

By getting the right information on schools and offering solid support in academics and test-taking, you can ensure that your student will find their dream school, and get accepted.