Official Partner of College Essay Advisors
Parent of a high school sophomore or junior? There are two things you should do today to help your child begin the college search
A tool to help your child make a thoughtful college decision
Written by Jack Delehey on April 08th 2022
Previously written on 4/23/2021
It’s deposit time. For high school seniors, in the next 8 days you will have to make one of the more influential decisions of your life up to this point: where you’ll (likely, unless you get off a waitlist) attend college for the next four years.

For some seniors, this decision is easy. Perhaps they’ve already made their choice, placed their deposit, and bought their back-of-the-car sticker to prove it.

But for others, the decision may be a difficult one, as they weigh the pros and cons of 2, 3, 4, or more schools.

My story
Back in the spring of 2010, I fell into this second camp. I was waitlisted at Vanderbilt and, while I’d ultimately get off the waitlist using specific tactics, I didn’t know it yet. I had been accepted at three schools regular decision (Tulane, Wake Forest, University of Richmond in case you are interested) and had to make a deposit decision.

My incredible mother hopped on planes with me and visited all three campuses for their accepted students days. All three seemed great. We returned home and, while I was certainly excited for college, I really felt no closer to an ultimate decision.

I base my entire college planning program on one simple question: “What would I have wanted if I could do it all again?” Perhaps at the very top of that list would be this document I’m providing here today: the DCC Decision Matrix. (Click File→ Make a Copy and it’s yours to keep and edit as needed).
As a senior in high school, I stared down the barrel of a problem: I had three incredible options to choose from. And that felt like two too many. I had a gray cloud of pros/cons/neutrals running around in my head and no way to really, truly decipher between them.

When I started helping high school students navigate the college search process, I found time and time again they dealt with this issue. And, while it seemed most apparent when faced with a life-altering decision such as “Where should I attend college?” I’ve realized that high school students of all ages (freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors) often struggle with decision-making for much simpler choices (Ex: “Which elective should I take next semester, pottery or video production?”).
My self-created decision matrix might not help you or your child...but it also might. And, like many items I offer in my program, if you think of it as just one tool in the larger toolbox, it may be something that can help.

The goal of the decision matrix is to turn an often subjective decision into a slightly more objective one: place schools (or options) on the left hand side, list the characteristics you value across the top, below it list the % value you want to apply for each characteristic (ex: does “prestige” make up 10% of your value? 90% of your value? Only the student can answer that truthfully for themselves)... and then lastly rank 1-10 for each school and each category. The matrix will multiply and provide a final answer.
Warning: this matrix does not work for everyone!

If I could go back 11 years, something like this would have been tremendously valuable and I know I would have used it as a tool in my final decision-making process. But for others, basing a decision off of subjective feelings and emotions is how they’d prefer to decide...and I completely understand that sentiment as well!

Do you have a high school senior (or perhaps know of one) who needs to make a deposit decision in a week’s time? Feel free to pass this along and see if it may help. Or perhaps you have a freshman, sophomore, or junior who struggles with other decisions? This may help them break out of their “paralysis by analysis” stage.

And if you’d like to learn more about how decisions fit into an entire, robust multi-year college plan click here (or pass the link along to your fellow parent that might be able to use it)! The decision matrix is just one of the many tools I provide my students so they feel they can take ownership of their college process...not let it control them!

Here is the link to the decision matrix one last time (just click File→ Make a copy and it’s yours to keep and edit).

Happy decision-making,

Jack Delehey

Jack Delehey (Vanderbilt '14) is a college admissions expert originally from Concord, MA and now resides in Denver, CO. It is his goal to pass on his college admission knowledge, strategies, and unique perspective to high school students in a young, fun, relatable, older-brother type manner.

The college application process is often confusing and stressful. But it just doesn't have to be that way! If you are interested in gaining clarity, peace of mind, and a detailed step-by-step program to help your child through the college application process, reach out and request a free strategy session today.
FB Comments Will Be Here (placeholder)
©2021 Delehey College Consulting