Making your final Choice

Use this interactive decision tool to identify the best decision based on what's most important to you!
The language here is directed to high school students choosing a college.

What is a weight and rate table?

A weight and rate table helps with complex decisions when there are multiple values and several alternatives at play. It calculates an easy-to-understand ranking of your options based on your scores.

Watch this video to understand how a weight and rate table works in the context of choosing a class.

5min explainer video

A weight and rate table for college choice

Work through the process to create a table similar to this example, based on the values that are most important to you and the alternatives that are realistic for you.


Consider your alternatives

An alternative is one possible course of action available. Good alternatives are (1) under our control, (2) significantly different, (3) potentially attractive, and (4) doable.

Questions to ask yourself: 

  • Can you articulate why each school is in your list?
  • Have you considered how you might combine two schools and/or other options into a hybrid solution to achieve your goals?
  • Have you and someone you trust tried brainstorming schools that would be a good fit?
  • Have you considered viable alternatives that don't include college?

Enter your alternatives

Start by listing your alternatives, schools or other options. They will be automatically entered into a weight and rate table below.

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Clarify what you want

Values are what we care about—wants, needs, likes, dislikes. They cause us to prefer the consequences of one alternative decision over another.

Common values when considering schools include:

  • Academics: reputations of programs, graduation rate, internship opportunities
  • Programs: majors, minors, independent study, study abroad, distance learning
  • Cost: courses, lodging, travel to and from, financial aid
  • Location: distance from home, weather, transportation, ease of access to valued interests (e.g., city vs. rural)
  • Population: sense of community, student diversity
  • Extracurriculars: athletics, clubs, Greek life, student government,  employment
  • Spirituality: school's spiritual creed, local religious organizations
  • Personal character growth: fostering resilience, stretching comfort zones

Enter your values and weight them

Next, enter your highest priority values. Give each a weight based on its relative importance to the others. The combined weights should add up to 100.

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Your weight and rate table

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Complete your weight and rate table

Rank your alternatives against your values.

Rate how well each school fulfills each value using a 1-10 scale, where 1 is worst, 10 is best, and 5 is halfway between. The ratings are relative, according to how you perceive them.

The example above shows someone living in Oregon, who really likes sunshine and wants a high quality academic experience. So, for weather, UCLA is best and gets a 10, while Chicago has very cold winters and gets a 1. However, Chicago has the best academic experience and gets a 10, with UCLA (5) beating Oregon (1) based on this student's values.

Identify the alternative that gets you the most of what you want (values)

The tool multiplies the value weight against the alternative rating, and it sums each to give a score for each school.
The alternative that has the highest score is the best, based on your current assumptions (expectations).

Test your assumptions! What if you adjust the weights? What if you adjust the ratings? Do the adjustments change your preferred alternative? This activity is called a sensitivity analysis, and it can increase your understanding of how sensitive your decision is to your assumptions.

Does it make sense and feel right?

Your head and heart should agree.

Just because you have a numerical score identifying your best alternative, you should still check it against your head and heart, does it make sense and feel right?

While the weight and rate method is an improvement over a pros and cons list, it's not right for every situation, or you may still have some work to do.

  • You may need to collect more information about the schools to fill in gaps--the tool can help identify the most important elements (values/ratings) where learning more is needed.
  • Are your values clear, do they interact, and are they consistent? You may need to go another level deeper to think about trade-offs, like whether $10,000 more in cost is worth a more beautiful location.
  • The weight and rate method does not take into account uncertainty--if you need to include uncertainty, like whether you will choose a different major in the future, you might need to use another tool, like a decision tree.

Another level of detail and analysis only makes sense if it will change your decision. If more analysis and information won't change the decision, you may have reached a decision that gets you the most of what you want.

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