Over the last three weeks, you were provided a set of three attributes to consider when selecting an institution, namely, You, Institution, and Academic Program.  Now, as a conclusion to the discussion, let’s discuss how YOU actually make the decision.

First, let me share a story –


When I served as the assistant director in the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at the University of Maryland, I had the pleasure of meeting an admitted student along with her parents during an Admitted Student Open House.  I inquired as to where they stood with the decision on their college choice; they replied that it was down to two programs – Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland.  Almost without skipping a beat, I encouraged her to simply use a coin to make her decision.

As you can imagine, the student was a little hesitant – “why would I leave the most important decision in my life to a flip of a coin.”  I understood but encouraged her to play along.  I grabbed a coin from my pocket.

We let University of Maryland be heads and Virginia Tech was tails.  The student (and parents) watched with anticipation as the coin was flipped. The coin flipped and landed in my hand; I placed it on my arm with my hand covering the result.  With the student waiting for the result, I slipped the coin in my pocket.

With the result GONE (in my pocket), I shared that the actual result of the coin flip was NOT important; what was important was what the student wanted the result to be when the coin was at its apex.  I asked the student what they wanted.  They admitted they wanted the University of Maryland.  Needless to say, the student attended the University of Maryland.


How do you make the final decision on where to attend college?  From the example above, you can use a coin; you could use the roll of the dice or throw a dart, but these are arbitrary.

What you will need to do is strongly consider which of the attributes are most important to you. From there, determine which of the institutions that you are considered best meets your chosen criteria.  Sounds easy, but it is NOT.  You must do your homework.

One approach I have encouraged students to consider is a decision-making chart with the institutions considered along left and the chosen criteria (in ranked order) along the top.  Now, evaluate how each institution meets each criterion on a scaled of 1-5 (5 being the best).  Once you have completed each institution, you can add up the total.  To do so, use a multiplier of 5 for the highest ranked criterion, 4 for the next and so on.  Multiply your score by the multiplier to obtain a score for each institution for each criterion.

Once you have totaled the scores for each institution, you will know where to go to college.  Wrong!  As with the coin flip, what did you want for the result?  If that institution did not have the high score, go back and change your evaluations so it does.  Thus, you are in control of the decision.  Unlike the coin flip, this process allows you to consider the criteria that are most important to you.

As you go through this process, do know that MANY college students transfer from their original institution and also change majors.  They key to a successful decision is to truly become engaged; after all, this is a major decision.  Visit the institution, contact current students, faculty, or recent alumni to learn from them.

Wishing you best as you make your decision; do let me know how I can help.

Dr. Architecture




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