Making Tough Decisions

I know it’s been a while since my last post. Apologies! I’ve been out and about on dental school interviews throughout California as well as in New York and Michigan. Acceptances went out last December, and the dust is finally settling because I’ve made a decision to accept an offer from UOP (aka the University of Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry)!

Choosing a dental school was not an easy task, as there were many factors that needed to be taken into consideration. I was debating between attending UOP or UCSF (aka the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry).

UOP vs. UCSF2I was eventually able to come to a decision and would like to share my thought process with you in hopes that it may be useful in tackling your future tough decisions.

How I Did It

I created a simple decision matrix using Google Spreadsheets to examine several factors I felt were important to me in choosing a dental school. I always use this method when I’m trying to make as rational of a decision as possible, and nothing is more objective than data!

I’ve attached a copy of my decision matrix below for you all:


Unlike a pros and cons list, I find that decision matrices allow me to weigh each contributing factor individually based on their level of importance to me.

You can find a Google Template of my decision matrix here. Or, if you’d prefer a downloadable version, you can access that here.

Here’s how I used the matrix to help me make my decision!

Step 1: List the factors that are important to you in making your decision.

For simplicity’s sake, I generally try to limit these to the 10 most important factors.

Step 2: List out your options.

You will be weighing your factors from Step 1 against your options. Since I was debating between two schools, I listed those two in their individual columns. You can definitely have more than two options!

Step 3: Weigh each factor according to their importance to you. This number will be listed in the “Maximum Points” column.

The curriculum and my gut feeling during my interview experience were the two most important factors to me in terms of choosing a dental school, with proximity to loved ones coming in a close second. This is why I ranked the former two factors as a 10 and the latter ones as an 8.

Step 4: Rate each factor in relation to your options.

For example, since the overall cost of attendance at UCSF is slightly less than the overall cost of attendance at UOP, I gave UCSF a total of 8 points out of 8. UOP, being the more expensive and therefore less favorable option with respect to that factor, received a score of 7.

You can play with the numbers and change your factors if needed, but try to limit yourself to a maximum of 3 changes–otherwise you’re only making it harder to come to a decision!

Step 5: Sum up the scores for each option.

This is easily done by utilizing the SUM function.

Step 6: Logically make your choice based upon the total score. This will be your final answer.

I used the MAX and nested IF functions to automatically let me know which option’s score was higher, UOP or UCSF. After plugging in all of my numbers, UOP turned out to be my final answer!

Of course, just because the matrix spits out an answer does not mean that you have to stick with it. The matrix is simply meant to be used as a tool to assist with the decision making process. I’ve been using this method for years and it has always worked for me!

I hope these tips were helpful in organizing your thoughts when it comes to making those tough choices! How do you tackle making big decisions?


One thought on “Making Tough Decisions

  1. […] I stumbled onto dentistry as a career option by chance. I had initially planned to be a family physician, but that decision did not feel quite right. After an evening of Google searches for “health-related occupations”, I made a list of options and cross referenced them with career resources that I had available at UCLA, my undergraduate institution. My plan was to narrow the list down to careers with viable and accessible resources, and from there explore each option individually until I found one I liked enough to pursue. At this point, I was hoping to make a decision quickly: I was graduating in one year. As fate would have it, I got accepted into dental school soon after and decided to attend the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry at the University of the Pacific locate…. […]


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