Welcome to the College Prep Confidential Podcast
Oct. 28, 2019

CPC Episode #26 - 10 Steps to Choosing the Right College

How would you like 10 easy steps to choose the right college? If so, then check out:  The time travel method to see if your chose your college wisely What Neopolitan ice cream can teach you about choosing the right colleges Why looking to the...

How would you like 10 easy steps to choose the right college? If so, then check out:

  •  The time travel method to see if your chose your college wisely
  • What Neopolitan ice cream can teach you about choosing the right colleges
  • Why looking to the future helps you choose the right college now
  • How alumni groups set you up for killer job offers and powerful connections

Back in the saddle. I’m reading about parents of college students and students on their way to college getting overwhelmed for college prep. College prep can be grueling. I mean, making choices for college can leave you more confused than a chameleon in a bag of skittles. So this week, Episode 26, we're talking about the 10 steps to use to choose the right college. Why these 10 steps? Because they'll help you reduce the amount of stress for choosing a college. These 10 steps will speak to what your heart wants and what goals you have. These 10 steps not only look at the now, but the future. If this resonates with you, then let's jump into it.


  1. Start with fit
    1. Who you are?
    2. What are you good at?
    3. What are you weak at?
    4. College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won
    5. At first glance, does this college appeal to you. Listen to your gut. Or does your gut scream at you to run the other way.
  2. Don't procrastinate - more financial aid, more competition, more chance to negotiate with the more days you have left. When you wait until the last minute, you increase stress levels and you don't make decisions from a place of comfort and confidence. Plus, in the new world, the more offers you get up front, the more negotiation power you have. And check out prior episodes I've recorded on having options and their power in negotiation.
  3. Make 3 lists - I read an article on a strategy called the Neopolitan strategy. If you're not familiar, Neopolitan ice cream comes in a box with 3 flavors, a block of chocolate, a block of vanilla, and a block of strawberry. And in most households, the family would attack the chocolate first. Then they'd move to the vanilla, and finally, when they destroyed the chocolate and vanilla, they'd move to strawberry last. You can adopt this same strategy for college choices. Your 3 lists can be chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry: Let's review those lists:
    1. Chocolate: Top choice Colleges you want to go to and you'll have competition getting into
    2. Vanilla: Colleges you like that you could probably get into with moderate effort
    3. Strawberry: Colleges you could get into with batting an eye. These are your safety, or fallback choices
  4. Rank priorities - academics, athletics, extra-curriculars, career options, housing, culture
    1. Here's what to do. Get a piece of paper or a spreadsheet. In the first column on the left, write down all the colleges you're thinking about attending from the Neopolitan Ice Cream method. Then, for each successive column to the right, in the column title, write down your priorities. Such as academics, athletics, career, etc. Now, for each line, find the intersection of the college and your priority, and rank it 1-5. 1 meaning the college doesn't have squat for that priority. And 5 meaning that college is a top performer or trend setter for this priority. Now, what you do next is fill all of the boxes in. And you add up the totals going left to right. See how many points each college racks up.
  5. Future Vision - Where do you want to be in 4 years? Will this school help you get there?
    1. Write a letter to yourself 4 years in the future. Where are you working? What are you doing? How have you changed? And then think about how this college fits into it.
  6. Check out job opportunities - job fairs, career centers, internship opportunities, career fairs. How many events, promotions, and newsletter updates is a college putting out about jobs. Because the good colleges will not stop at recruiting you, they'll help you take the next step to finding a good career and hosting different companies. And why wouldn't they? Because their reputation hinges on you using that little piece of paper with the college's name on it called a degree to launch you into your first job and beyond.
  7. Compare financial aid packages - we've covered this on multiple episodes. How much money will colleges give you? Are there any other stipulations on the loan which you can try to negotiate? Does the college offer wiggle room or other incentives?
  8. The "Time Travel" method - Go find alumni on LinkedIn from colleges you're thinking about attending. And ask them what they would have done differently. Would they still go to that school? if you get enough feedback, you may save yourself thousands in tuition by making the wrong choice. it helps you "time travel" to the future to see if it's worth it before making the choice. Connecting with alumni puts in you view of another network...the alumni's job network. You see, there's college alumni, and then there's corporate alumni. So a guy who graduated from Purdue 10 years ago will be in the Purdue alumni network. And he may have also worked at say, Chase Bank. so he's in the Chase bank network. And now when you connect with him, you'll have a chance to get access to dual networks. So you can take it a step further and find all Purdue alumni who worked at Chase, and see if this is a viable path for you. Since people tend to hire others like them, you'll often times see a slew of people from one college going into a job, and more of the college graduates funnel in there simply by the association from the college.
    1. Here's a perfect example of the power of an alumni group... Harvard Business Review did a study. And they found people who invested money placed more and larger bets on companies connected with their colleges than they did. some of the investments performed 7.8% better than other investments not connected to their college. So the fund managers spent more time and money on companies connected with their alma mater. This is the power of the alumni network.
  9. Visit the school - This helps you soak in the environment, check out the culture, and see if this is a place you want to spend the next 4 years of your life. Remember, 2 people can visit the same college, go to the same areas, do the same things, and have vastly different experiences. Your gut doesn't lie. So check out the campus if you can. Let your inner voice tell you the truth.
  10. Connections and Networking
    1. People you can study with. 
    2. People you can learn new skills from
    3. People you may work with or network with when it's time to job hunt
    4. Let me tell you a story about networking and connections. In college, in my first year, I met a guy in my calculus classes. We also had other math classes together. I learned better study habits from him. He even pushed me to get better grades than I ever would have on my own. We became friends, and eventually, through him, I met my wife. And none of this would have ever happened if I didn't meet him through college math courses. And the story gets better, years later, when I started MathCelebrity, he was the first one to take interest, and eventually, he flew out with me to various conferences to promote my website and test different features I built. All of this, from the power of networking. 
    5. Look at Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg. All of that got started at Harvard University.

So there you have it, the 10 steps to choosing the right college. Now, there's other tips, tricks, and secrets not covered in this podcast. And if you're interested, I've got a resource page to help you prepare and make the right decision for college. Check out cpcshow.com. that's cpcshow.com. You'll find exam prep resources, financial aid resources, and other tips to help you prepare for college. Thank you for listening, and I'll see you next week.