Step 6: Finalize the List of Schools

Go back to Our 7-Step Approach

By Rajkamal Rao 

If you have completed Steps 1 - 5 correctly, you would, by now, have:
  1. Defined your brand & decided what you want to do in your career.
  2. Genuinely abandoned the madness that comes with school rankings.
  3. Chosen your target states by better understanding current trends in the US economy.
  4. Identified occupations in demand and industries that are trending upward - so that you can go back, refine Step 1 and be better ready to market yourself.
  5. Selected a good list of schools in the target states and collected selection factor data - from our universe of 15 selection factors.  [We would be pleased if you did this all in the cloud using a Google spreadsheet with one tab for each school in your list]. 
Now is the time to begin wearing your analytical hats and make some sense of all the data you have collected.  The most important objective is to finalize that select list of schools that you will apply to.  So yes, the rubber is now about to hit the road.

The first task is to prioritize the selection factors and tailor it to your case.  Just to digress a bit, we are reminded of that very funny Maruti Suzuki ad when a NASA engineer extolls the virtue of the next space vehicle and asks the interested audience if anyone has any questions.  Our Indian raises his hand and responds, "Kitna Deti hai?". [What's the mileage?]

Back to our discussion.  Every student is concerned about cost, of course, but the point is that not all 15 factors weigh the same to all people.  In fact, a student called us recently to insist that his parents have money so cost is no issue at all to him.  Some may be more interested in location - because they want to stay close to a big city or a relative.  Others may want to go to a school simply because of friends who went there.  Some may want to go to a school with a huge international student body, others may want to go to one that has relatively few international students.

The truth is that the priority of these factors can be decided by you and you alone.  This is best done, objectively, by weighting each factor so that the sum of the factors totals 100%.  Each weight indicates how important a factor is to you.  The weights must be the same for all schools.  

Let's say cost is extremely important to you and you want to rate it at 30%.  This means that you have to allocate the remaining 70% across the remaining 14 factors.  Remember that this weight has to be the same for all schools.  That is, you cannot weight cost at 30% for school A and at 25% for school B.  [We suggest that you create a master set of weights so that you need to change a weight only once - and the changed value is updated across all tabs of your sheet].

Now, score each school (on a scale of 1-5) as to how well it meets your factors.  For example, if school A meets the cost factor best, you would give it a 5, but school B, which has much higher tuition costs would get a 2 or 3.  Rate each of the 15 factors on this 1-5 scale, 1 being the least and 5 being the best.

Both the above steps - weighting and scoring - are iterative, by nature.  Expect to go back and change your weights and scores - because you surely will.  It will take several iterations before you are fully comfortable with your work.

Now, introduce a new column called the weight-score metric. This is simply the product of the weight and score columns - for each factor.  That is, you are multiplying the weight column by the score column for each factor and adding this up for all the factors.  The sum represents the overall weight-score metric for the school.

The schools with the best weight-score metric will form your target schools. In the illustration below, School A is the best choice with a score of 337, followed by School C and School B.  Click on the image for a clearer view.

In your spreadsheet, it is best to create a summary tab up front which brings in the weight-score totals for each of the tabs.  You would simply sort this highest to lowest - and set the cutoff to the number of schools you ultimately want to apply to - to get your finalized list of schools. [We had said in Step 5a that your universe of target schools should be about 3 times larger.  In that example, we had said you would use 20 schools in the universe to apply finally to 7 schools.  In your spreadsheet, your final list of schools would be those that have the top 7 weight-scores metric].

As always, we are glad you are here.  Where do you want to go next?
  1. Step 1: Prepare Better. Define Your Brand & Decide What You Want a t
  2. Step 2: School Rankings Matter Less Than You Imagine, So Think Different
  3. Step 3: Choose Your Target States by Better Understanding the US Economy
  4. Step 4: Identify Occupations in Demand and Industries that are Trending Upward
  5. Step 5: Review School Selection Factors, Including Financial Considerations
  6. Step 6: Finalize the List of Schools
  7. Step 7: Finalize your Application

Go back to "Rao Advisors - Home".

A Note About Premium Services

Our promise is to empower you with as much high-quality, ethical and free advice as is possible via this website.  But students often ask us if they can engage with us for individual counseling sessions to complete this and other steps.

Individual counseling is part of the Premium Offering of Rao Advisors and involves a fee.   Even if you take advantage of our services, you are still ultimately in charge.  This principle is ground in our fundamental belief that you alone should be responsible for the career decisions you make.

We suggest that you review our Note on Premium Services for more information.  Or you may contact us directly for more information about our Premium offering.

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