Solved Challenge: 5 step process to decide which education to choose

choosing the right school


Ema writes:

Hi, I am 16 years old and I am a huge fan of your page. It will mean a lot to me if you would help me. I listen to all your podcasts and think that it is amazing how you dedicate your free time to help others.

I would like to give you a challenge. I have to decide which gymnasium in Aarhus I should choose.

What should I look at? Quality? - how to measure it? Distance from home? Location? Possibilities for studying afterward? IB versus Danish one?

Hoping for your help. I am really bad at making decisions; -)



Dear Emma,


We have to be honest with you. None of us is a big specialist in the Danish educational system, for the simple reason that neither of has taken or had a kid taking the gymnasium level of education in Denmark. Luckily, we’ve had Lasse, the technician from the Radiohuset Aarhus (that’s where we host our radio shows), join us and confirm that what we are saying is actually relevant :-).

We may not be able to provide you with pros and cons of the different types of gymnasiums available in Aarhus. But we can definitely help you with figuring out how to make a proper analysis and support you with making your decision.

First of all, we’d like you to be gentle with yourself. You are still very young and you are only getting to know yourself and what you really like and dislike. Only very few of us have a very strong and clear calling from the early days of our lives. A vast majority of us has to try different things out before we figure out what exactly we should be doing with our lives. Additionally, it is also quite likely that the vision of ourselves will be changing over time. It is therefore important that you allow yourself to take the time and do the inner journey for yourself.


It is not a decision that you'll take for life


However, it’s also important to remember that it’s not a decision that you’ll take for life. You need to take the best possible decision for now. If you change your mind later, you will need to adapt your education to the new decision.

You will really benefit from embracing the fact that every single decision is a learning opportunity. If you choose the “wrong” school, as a minimum you’ll find out that it was not the right education for you. Most likely you’ll learn much more than that. Life goes in mysterious ways and embracing the fact that we change and mature and our vision of life changes too, is an amazing approach that will turn around the quality of your life. Learning to treat “bad decisions” and failures as opportunities to learn, is one of the best gifts that you can offer to yourself.

That’s all wise and stuff, but you still need to be able to take a decision that will give you a good stomach feeling now, so let’s get down to business.

We have prepared a 5 steps process containing a number of questions that will support you in taking the best possible decision for you now.


5 steps process


Step 1. Find out who do you want to be when you grow up

Step 2. Analyze who others think you could be when you grow up (your parents, teachers, friends)

Step 3: Analyze the factors (language, quality, etc.)

Step 4: Prioritize all the factors

Step 5: Make a decision


Step 1. Find out who do you want to be when you grow up


That’s the mother of all questions: Who do you want to be when you grow up?

You are still very young so you have all the right in the world not to know the answer yet.

But maybe you do? Some of us actually know what we want to do when we grow up, already when we are very young. It is quite useful here in Denmark, as the type of gymnasium you are going to choose, to a certain degree determines the further educational path. You shouldn’t worry too much though. If you change your mind later, you can always take the needed education additionally.

If you do know, who do you want to be when you grow up, that’s great! It simplifies your decision process, you can move on to the step 3.

If you don’t know, that’s also great! You get to experiment and try different things out. However, since you need to take a decision now, you could definitely start by seeking clarity.

In your case clarity seeking could be a simple observation of what brings you joy. Which activities inspire you? Are you more of a technical person or maybe you enjoy reading? Learning new languages? Observe yourself for a few days to gather that vital information. Which subjects do you find especially exciting? What makes you so interested that you forget to eat and sleep. What are you good at doing (your strengths)? Take a small notebook around and write down all the moments that bring you joy.


What did you love doing when you were little?


It may also be a good idea to try to remember what you liked doing when you were small. For example, when I was a little girl, I used to record my own radio programs on a tape recorder. A lot. Then I forgot about that for something about 30 years and when I started looking for my passion and life purpose, pretty soon I started having a radio show. There is a surprising magnitude of information about ourselves encoded in our childhood.

You could also try to imagine yourself in a scenario where there are no restrictions and you could be anyone and do anything in life, what would it be? Sit down comfortably and imagine yourself in 5 years. Imagine that there are no limitations. What are you doing? Who are you?

Here is a link to another challenge where we’ve discussed clarity seeking in more detail.


Step 2. Analyze who others think you could be when you grow up (your parents, teachers, friends)


That’s a really tricky part of the analysis, but it is a vital one nevertheless. Sometimes, the people around us may impact us a bit too much when it comes to our educational & career choices. For example, parents may have some expectations towards us and influence our decisions. They don’t even have to be telling you that you need to take on a specific profession or run family business when you grow up. They may, for example, expect from you to have a high education. Education is great, it empowers us, but if you, in reality, would rather work with your hands than with your brain, you may need to take on a different type of education.

In this step, we’d like you to make sure that there is no “dream” that you have had, which has been pushed away by others. You may have been told that you won’t make good money on that. Or that it will not give you secure future. It is a great time to bring that dream back to the table.

Our close people can accidentally impact us when it comes to selecting a career path, but on the other hand, when we don’t yet know ourselves what is our calling, friends & family could be helpful during our assessment of what we are good at and what we enjoy doing. You could, for example, use them as your Guinea pigs, when testing what brings you joy.


What do YOU want to DO?


It is, however, CRUCIAL for you to be able to recognize what it is that YOU want to do and treat other people’s suggestions only as an INPUT into your analysis. It is not an easy task and it may be something that takes you a long time. We just want you to be open and aware that others may be influencing you (often because they care about you and because they think that they know what’s best for you). You don’t want to end up doing what your mum wants you to do, but what YOU want to do.

It is a good source of information, but the most valid source of information sits in your heart and mind.


Step 3: Analyze the factors (language, quality, etc.)


Now let’s move on to the more tangible part of choosing your education; the analysis of the factors.

One of the questions you’ve asked us was if you should choose IB or Danish gymnasium.

Well, for starters, you could try to answer a few questions:

What do you want to study next? (hopefully, you’ve found the answer when working with the first step)

Where do you want to study?

Where do you want to live?

For example, if you’d like to be a therapist or a doctor in the future, it is still quite important to do the studies in the language of the country where you want to practice. So, if you want to be a doctor in Denmark, choosing a Danish gymnasium may be a good idea.

However, if you want to be an engineer or work in business, it could be beneficial to study in English.

When it comes to quality, you could definitely look into yearly assessment reports, to find out about the level of education and satisfaction among the students.

When I was selecting a high school, the most important factors for me where the “educational level” and the “reputation” of the school. I wanted to go to one of the best schools, to ensure that I get a good education and that it will make my chances higher to get to the University of my choice). But it was also extremely important for me to choose the school that had a cool, relaxed & creative vibe. I would definitely recommend going and visiting a few schools during the open days. Talk to the teachers and students and see for yourself how do you feel there.

Factors such as distance and location are valid too. Consider, is it important for you to live close to the school? Maybe you need to work while you study, so it actually is an important factor?

Brainstorm if there are any other crucial factors and note them down, you’ll select the most important ones in the next step.


Step 4. Prioritize the factors


Now that you have analyzed some of the factors, we’ll look into prioritization.

First, we’ll ask you to make a table where columns are dedicated to the top 3-5 schools (1 school per column) and each row is a factor (see the example below).

Then you will fill in the table based on the information that you have gathered in previous steps.

Next step will be to prioritize how important each factor is for you. We recommend that you take a simple scale: from 1 (not important) to 5 (very important).

The final action will be to sum up the scores.

Example: you want to be a doctor in Denmark



Step 5. Make the decision


As scary as it may sound to take such a decision at the age of 16, you need to remember that you are trying to make the best possible decision for now. If you come to the conclusion that it has not been the best decision for you, you can always change it. In Denmark education is for free (majority) and you currently need to work until you are 68 years old. That gives you plenty of time and opportunities to change your decision and try a completely different path.

Answering those questions, doing the analysis and prioritization will give you plenty of information to base your decision on. However, allow yourself to also listen to your heart. If your heart tells you that you’d like to be a pilot, even though it may be difficult to implement, it may be worthwhile going after that dream.

If you have seriously no idea yet, you may choose the most “open” option, the one that will keep most of the door open for you.

Many young people take a year out, they choose to travel or work so that they earn a year to figure out what they’d like to do next.

As long as you remember that every choice we make gives us an opportunity to learn, you are going to be fine. Maybe you’ll select a school that will not be the best for you, you’ll at least learn that! Next time it’ll be easier.

We do hope that answering the questions, doing the analysis and prioritization was helpful.

We wish you all the luck and we hope that you’ll enjoy your gymnasium times!