Making the College Decision

Making A College Decision

Making a College Decision Presentation

View the presentation to the left to see how primary & secondary factors impact your decision. In addition, read about common biases that often lead students to make suboptimal decision on both where they apply and where they decide to go.

Primary Factors to Consider:

Academic & Financial Match

Academic Match

  • What college is at the right level for you academically?
  • Will you be pushed & challenged at your college or within your program?

Financial Match


  • Does the university have your major (or similar majors & programs)?
  • How developed are the programs in your field?

The best way to ensure academic and financial match options is to apply to a balanced list of colleges and to compare your financial aid awards!

Secondary Factors to Consider:


Extracurricular Opportunities

  • What are the opportunities available to students?

Campus Culture

  • How does campus feel? Where are the students from and what are they like?

Student-to-Faculty Ratio (Class Sizes)

  • How many students are there compared to how many professors? This will impact how large or small the class sizes are


  • Close to home or far away?
  • Suburban, urban, or rural?
  • Region of the country

University Size

  • The university size affects a lot of aspects of campus including the campus culture, class sizes, and opportunities on campus.

Religious Affiliation

  • Many universities in the U.S. were founded by religious groups but the strength of those religious ties varies.

The best way to understand fit is to VISIT!

Decision-Making Strategies

Strategy One: Process of Elimination

This strategy works well when there are only 1 or 2 factors that are important to you! With this strategy, you simply eliminate the college/university that doesn't meet your minimum criteria. In the example below, Clown College wasn't as good with financial aid and didn't have a good selection of majors, therefore Graduation University is the optimum choice.

This is an oldie but a goodie! This strategy works well when you have multiple factors you're considering for each school. Keep in mind, this may still involve some "gut instinct" decision making as it is up to you to decide which pros outweigh which cons! In the example below, Clown College has a great campus culture and interesting activities! However, they are worse on financial aid and majors. Since those two factors tend to outweigh any others, Graduation University is the optimum choice.

Strategy Two: Pros & Con List

Determine Your College Fit: Pros and Cons

Strategy Three: Point System

This strategy is a little more complex, but is good if you want to mathematically analyze your choices! In the example below, the student evenly divided 100 points between 5 different factors. Of course, if you'd like to give more point value to the factors that are more important (like financial aid and majors) that works too! You can see that while both colleges have their merits, Graduation University earned more points and is therefore the optimum choice.

Strategy Four: A Values Driven Approach to Making the College Decision

This strategy is adapted from Dr. Stephen Antonoff's College Planning Values Assessment from his book College Match: A Blueprint for Choosing the Best School for You. This strategy can help us think about what your values are--everyone has different values and none are right or wrong! You can then use these values to start thinking about what kind of colleges will fit you best.