The Details Behind My Decision

By Zanab Toppa

My Concept & Prototype of College

My concept and prototype of college were simply two factors that went into my decision to go to Rice University. To form my concept of college, I grouped establishments that provided education to young adults after high school. In addition, I often imagine a traditional 4-year college and living in a dorm when I think about college. I also picture a university that is rather large and has tens of thousands of people attending. This mental image (my prototype) factored into my decision by making me oblivious or less likely to explore other options, such as community college or living off campus for example.

My Problem Solving Methods

Trial and Error

Trial and error involves trying out different solutions until one works. This could have assisted me when applying to colleges if I had applied to nearly every college I knew of. I could have applied to multiple colleges until I got acceptance letters. However, this would not be very practical since the number of solutions is so large. It could also hinder my performance on application components since my workload is increasing and I have a lot more to accomplish in so little time.


Algorithms affected my decision making because I made holistic spreadsheets to help me decide on colleges and housing situations. For deciding on colleges to apply to, I compared my SAT/ACT scores, GPA, class rank, course load, and other factors with the average statistics of a student accepted into that college the previous year. I also factored in the overall acceptance rate for each college and calculated my chances of getting accepted. Next, I calculated the likelihood of how much I would enjoy the colleges I was accepted to by considering the cost of tuition, financial aid, average class size, location, and programs. I also had a similar method for deciding on a housing situation by researching all of my possible options.


My decision was affected by heuristics because I did not research every factor when deciding on colleges and majors. For example, there were some schools with great biomedical programs that I overlooked because I only looked at the overall ranking of each school. I assumed that schools with a low rank overall would have mediocre biomedical engineering programs and that schools that had a high rank overall would have stellar biomedical program. By taking this mental shortcut, I was somewhat accurate but not as precise as I could have been.


Insight learning occurs when one suddenly realizes how to solve a problem. This is very similar to what happened to me while I was attempting to plan my future. I had no idea what colleges or majors to pick during most of high school. I spent most of my time unproductively rather than slowly working towards a solution and felt upset about my inability to make a decision. However, I suddenly realized what I wanted to do in the future near the end of high school.

Other Factors

Big image

Fixation & Mental Set

Initially, I approached the dilemma of choosing a college by deciding to only think about local colleges. I did not look at other perspectives and was quite fixated on this path. I also had a mental set of solving problems by allowing my parents to make decisions for me. This way had usually been successful in the past because it created peace between my parents and I. However, I eventually employed a new mental set and solved my problem through algorithms and what was best for me.


When I first visited Rice, I immediately knew that it was the school for me. Even before I used algorithms to decide on a college, my intuition helped me choose. I did not have to put a lot of effort into deciding as I had a gut feeling that Rice would be a good school. This feeling came to me automatically and I did not even have to process it.

Representative Heuristic

Representative heuristics played a role in my decision. Rice matched my prototype of a college because of its large size and studious environment. I ignored many other options for colleges because they did not fit my mental prototype and I assumed that they would not be a good college as a result. I also used representative heuristics when deciding on my housing situation because dorms fit my prototype of a typical college living situation. This made me believe that living in a dorm would be a better choice than living off campus.

Availability Heuristic

Availability heuristics affected my decision to live in a dorm because of news coverage on how dangerous it is to live alone in a city. I had seen stories about violent crimes (murder, assault, robbery, rape, etc.) highlighted on the news. Since these crimes were readily available in my mind, I assumed that it would be more risky to live in an apartment off campus. Therefore, I decided to live in a dorm where I could be surrounded with more people because it seemed safer.


Before using algorithms, I was overconfident in my ability to get accepted to some colleges. Although I knew that my grades were lower than usual to get accepted into some colleges, I justified that I should apply because I could easily be a special case. I was more confident than correct and overestimated the likelihood that I would get accepted. However, I eventually did try to avoid overconfidence by being unbiased and looking at only statistics.

Belief Perseverence

Belief perseverance was present when I realized that I would probably get rejected to some colleges. Despite statistics that proved my initial conceptions incorrect, I continued to believe that it was possible. I was clinging to my original beliefs and rejected opposing data. However, I now realize that I was wrong.


I had to make compensations when deciding to go to Rice. For example, I had to give up being close to my friends and family. I also had to borrow loans to pay for my tuition. In addition, I had to comply with the location of the school even though I would prefer to go to another state. Lastly, I had to comply with the weather of Houston which I dislike.