Or most decisions for that matter.
Crest was the most popular toothpaste brand in the early 1990’s because it had a reputation for fighting cavities. Other brands were just as good at cavity prevention, but they couldn’t compete with Crest by marketing themselves the same way. So Aim toothpaste claimed that it “tastes good.” Ultra-Brite became the best at “teeth whitening.” Close-Up became the best at “freshening breath.”
Today you can spend 15 minutes in the toothpaste aisle figuring out which one to buy. My dental hygienist tells me to go with the cheapest, because it makes no difference.
Choosing a college is more complicated than buying toothpaste, but not by as much as we think. Malcolm Gladwell explains:
“I’m astonished by the way that Americans agonize about their college decisions. There is an assumption that the thing that makes an education good or bad is knowable beforehand. I would have thought the ingredients of a good education are largely unknowable.
The most important thing about my education at the University of Toronto was the fact that I met a guy named Tom Connell. And I hung out with Tom and had a million fantastic conversations with Tom and emerged from university a vastly wiser and more interesting person. In a million years, how would I have known whether Tom was going to be there?
It’s also pointless because for most universities the question of whether you get a good education is up to you, not up to the university. So I think a lot of these choice worries are just based on this preposterous notion of the consumer as a passive recipient of pre-packaged experiences. And most of life is not pre-packaged.”