“The SWOT Approach to College Enrollment” by Kelly Rodkey

As my family navigates the college search, application, and selection process for our second child, I yearn for a tool to distill the 4000+ degree granting universities into a handful for consideration.

I sought out the SWOT (Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat) Analysis as my salvation.  I quickly realized all the facts and data were available for these schools, so what I really needed was selection criteria for differentiation.

Strengths related to available field of study, admission criteria test scores, size of student body, public or private institution, scholarship availability, geographic location, and even academic reputation.

Weaknesses related to available field of study, admission criteria test scores, size of student body, public or private institution, scholarship availability, geographic location, and academic reputation as well.

As I focused strengths and weaknesses of the internal environment, such evaluation became only one part of the whole.  I focused on the opportunities and threats of the external environment and, in this case, those affected by the perceptions of a teenager trying to plan for the rest of her life.

Will it matter how good the food is in the cafeteria, how far one has to walk to get to class, how many flights of stairs are beautifully incorporated into the treks across campus, how many people from high school are going to the same university, how good/poor the lighting is in the dormitory, how nice the professor was during the interview, the strength of campus safety measures, how close the university is to civilization (as defined by a teenager), etc.,?

SWOT looks at how a firm fits to the current reality, so it is a preliminary indication of current competitive position.  Reality for a teenager may change rapidly.

SWOT analysis should be based on objective data that allow past-to-current-to-probable future comparisons of the marketplace, competitors, products and services, and company performance.  SWOT can help narrow the field in the college search using institutional facts and data.  However, as selecting a university to commit to for about four years of her life requires identifying where she is most comfortable, it seems that no quality tool can help characterize the highly subjective and emotional traits that will make a particular university the right fit for my child.

Kelly Rodkey spent over 22 years in the healthcare industry at Abbott and Baxter in many quality roles, which encompassed testing and manufacturing, new product development, and clinical study report submissions.  In her most recent role as a CAPA Quality Approver, Kelly worked with investigation teams to ensure nonconformances were fully investigated, corrective and /or preventive actions were effective, and documentation narratives were understandable and fully supported.  She holds three ASQ certifications and has been a member of ASQ Section 1212 since 2009.