Grade 9-12

College: Where am I going to go?

Time: ,
Updated: July 2 2015,

Students will use a PACED decision making grid to help them decide where they would like to attend college.


collegeThis lesson is designed to help students determined what they would like to do when they graduate. When they have completed with the lesson, the students will be able to do the following.

  • Identify the problem (What are they going to do after high school? Go to college? Enter the workforce? Travel?)
  • Look at alternatives (Work, where to go to school, etc.)
  • Develop criteria (What do they consider important as they compare their alternatives? This may include: costs, fun, future earnings, etc.)
  • Evaluate the data (Use the PACED grid to compare the alternatives based on the criteria.)
  • Make a decision (Based on their evaluation and taking account of the opportunity cost at stake, the students will determine which alternative best meets their criteria.)

Learning Objectives

  • Use the concept of opportunity cost in evaluating choices to attend college or go directly to work.
  • Identify the opportunity costs connected with post-secondary education.

Resource List

  • The PACED Decision-Making Grid: This grid is a decision making grid designed to help people work through several alternatives to make a decision.
    PACED Grid
    Teacher PACED Grid
  • University Information: Extremely helpful in giving students easy access to several university web sites. This site also provides information about planning for college, taking entrance exams, making applications for admission, and dealing with the costs of attending college.
  • Individual college and university sites: These sites will also help the students find the information they need to fill out the PACED grid. Examples include the University of Kansas, the University of Missouri, Harvard, the University of Washington, etc.
  • 2003 Colleges, College Scholarships, and Financial Aid: Provides an online directory of college and university admissions office e-mail addresses and telephone numbers, college scholarship and financial aid office e-mail addresses, and links to the home pages and online applications of more than a thousand colleges and universities. The site also provides a page of links to the very best college and university admissions, college scholarship, and financial aid pages on the web.
  • U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics: Provides information dealing with the labor outlook for the next 10 years. It also offers complete and up to date statistics on the current labor force of the United States.


Students face some of the biggest decisions of their lives as they move on from high school. The PACED grid is a decision making grid designed to help people work through several alternatives to make a decision.

It involves:

  1. Identifying the problem.
  2. Listing the alternatives.
  3. Identifying criteria: what are important considerations?
  4. Evaluating: compare the alternatives based on the criteria.
  5. Making a decision: based on the evaluation of alternatives, the students identify the alternative which best meets their criteria. They also identify the next best alternative.

An example of a Teacher PACED Grid has been attached for teachers to use as a model in introducing the uses of a decision grid. However, the PACED grids actually used will vary from student to student.

  1. Ask the students what they would like to do after high school? Do they want to go to college or do they want to work? This will be their problem. Tell the students to identify their problem they have in the appropriate space provided in the PACED grid.
  2. Tell the students to use the web sites College Board- Inspiring Minds , 2003 Colleges, College Scholarships, and Financial Aid Page or the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics and select several schools or occupations which they can use as alternatives. Tell the students to list their selections in the column labeled 'alternatives' on the left side of the PACED grid.

    labor Individual college and university sites will also help the students find the information they need to fill out the PACED grid. Examples include the University of Kansas , the University of Missouri , Harvard , the University of Washington , etc.

  3. Ask the students what they consider to be most important as they determine which college they would like to attend or which job they would like to do. Tell the students that these considerations are criteria for the grid. (The plural form of this noun is "criteria"; the singular form is "criterion." If your students struggle with these forms, you could substitute the ordinary English terms: "standards" and "standard.") Examples of criteria could include (but aren't limited to) cost, location, job outlook, etc. Tell the students to list these criteria in the appropriate place along the top of the chart.
  4. Next, ask the students how important these criteria are to them? Have them weigh each criterion on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being more appropriate. (A students may have more than one criterion with each weighting.)
  5. Evaluate the alternatives based on all the criteria listed across the top. If the alternative in question meets a criterion listed across the top, give it a plus. If it doesn't, give it a minus. Then transfer down the weightings of the criterion you are working with–to make it a + or – 4 for example. When you are done, add up each row.
  6. Evaluate – the alternative with the highest score is your choice. The second highest scoring alternative is your opportunity cost. Tell the students that if they have more than one alternative with the same, highest score, they must come up with alternative criteria that would help them decide between the two.


Tell the students that as they complete the grid they will arrive at different decisions depending upon the alternatives, the criteria, and the weighting they assigned to the criteria they have chosen. Tell the students that they will be able to arrive at a decision and recognize its opportunity cost by evaluating each alternative based on their criteria.

Extension Activity

Have the students consider a decision they’ve made the past, or to anticipate one they may have to make in the future. They should describe the problem and the decision associated with it and then use the PACED grid to come to a conclusion.


You may evaluate your students' ability to use the PACED grid by asking them to apply it to other problems. Possibilities include:

  • Which movie to go see
  • What to do on a Friday night
  • What kind of car to buy

You can also have the students answer the following questions. working by themselves or with a partner.

View Interactive Activity


  1. What was your choice?
    [Answers will vary.]
  2. Were you surprised by that choice?
    [Answers will vary.]
  3. Did you have two choices come out on top? If so, what criteria did you come up with that differentiated between the two?
    [Answers will vary.]
  4. What choice made up your opportunity cost?
    [Answers will vary.]
  5. What other decision have you had to make that you could use the PACED grip to assist you with?
    [Answers will vary.]