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Choosing a College Degree? Try a SWOT Analysis.

Before computers, smart phones, and Google ruled our everyday world, one of the best ways to make a decision was to take a sheet of paper, draw a dividing line and label one side “Pros” and the other side “Cons.”

Then you’d brainstorm as many pros and cons surrounding your decision (whatever it was), adding them to the appropriate column on the page.

Primitive, perhaps, but certainly effective—and a tool to consider when deciding which degree program to choose.

Beyond Pros & Cons: SWOT

But because there’s more to a decision than just positives and negatives, a business tool known as SWOT (pronounced \ˈswät\) offers a better, more accurate alternative to give you much-needed insight into which degree program is right for you.

SWOT literally stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.”

The Strengths and Weaknesses portion of SWOT represent internal factors affecting your decision or situation; while the Opportunities and Threats portion represent external factors.

A Self-Assessment Worksheet

Here’s a worksheet you can use to conduct your own internal/external SWOT analysis.

Set a timer and complete the worksheet in 15 minutes or less. Do not overanalyze your answers; simply go with your first response.

Internal Factors


List the skills, talents, interests and attitudes you possess that you consider positive attributes. Questions to ask yourself:  

  • What do you do better than most?
  • What are you known for doing well?
  • Where have you been successful in the past?

List the skills, knowledge and experience you lack or possess but consider to be detrimental.   Questions to ask yourself:  

  • What could you improve?
  • What factors lead you down a less successful pathway?
  • Where have you failed to realize results?


External Factors

List any capabilities or possibilities that could open up as a result.   Questions to ask yourself:  
  • What opportunities could become available to you if circumstances were different?
  • Is there some new technology, trend or idea you’d like to keep up with?
  • What are others doing that you’d like to do?
List any negative possibilities and the things that could go wrong.   Questions to ask yourself:  
  • What barriers are in your way?
  • What worries you?
  • What causes you to struggle?

Inform Your Decision Now it’s time to apply what you’ve learned in your SWOT analysis to your decision about which degree program you should enroll in.

While SWOT will not provide you with the proverbial “if A, then B” scenario to making your decision, it can inform and hopefully influence it.

Here’s how:

        1. Match your strengths to opportunities. Determine which degree programs capitalize on your strongest areas and lead you to key career opportunities. Study the degree program details and in-demand skills graduates in that field have. If you’re better than a 75% match, by all means consider that program. If you’re a 50% or less match, keep looking. And if you fall somewhere in between, seek the counsel or advice of an academic advisor.
        1. Find strengths to offset weaknesses. If a desired degree program interests you but you’re weak in a few key areas, look for strengths that can help you overcome your weaknesses. For example, let’s say you’re considering an Accounting degree program but are really bad at crunching numbers. If you’re strong in reporting and analytic skills you could still consider the field. If you’re hopeless on all fronts, though, consider something completely out of that realm, such a Marketing or Public Relations degree program.

These are just a couple of ways to use SWOT to inform your decision. The point is to be sure you accurately assess your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, and use your findings to logically support your college degree decision.

If you'd like to talk to an admissions counselor about your options, or about anything else, please get in touch with us today.

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