Applying the Monty Hall Problem to EDU: More Data = Better Decisions

Applying the Monty Hall Problem to Higher Ed: More Data = Better Decisions

You’ve prepared your data and rehearsed your presentation. But when the day comes, things don’t unfold the way you visualized. People need different data than you thoughtor a deeper dive into the issue. Priorities change… a common occurrence these days. A classic statistics brain teaser, the Monty Hall Problem, illustrates how we can make incorrect assumptions about what we think we know. More data should help us make better decisionsnot stick to our first choice.

In his game show, Monty Hall presents his players with a choice of three doors. Behind two are a “zonk” prize of a donkey. Opening the third door revealsA Brand New Car! Once you make your choice, Monty opens one of the other doors…revealing a donkey. Then you are offered the chance to switch doors. Do you switch? Or stick with your first choice? What data do you have?

Most people instinctively opt for their first choice, feeling that they have a 50/50 chance of being correct. But Monty was actually trying to do you a favor and add more information to your decision. In two out of three cases the winning choice is to switch doors. Sticking with your instincts can cost you a new set of wheels and you end up trying to give away a donkey.

This scenario can play out in your daily life as a marketer. Let’s say your admissions team is in need of more leads.

  • What’s behind door one is the “donkey” (lists with names that haven’t been qualified through the enrollment funnel)
  • What’s behind door two is the “donkey” (more leads from increased budget on AdWords Search and Display – lots of names, but few that are qualified)
  • What’s behind door three is the winner – higher CVR with better quality leads (a well-thought out strategy across channels that better reaches right-fit students)

A second situation might involve data that is more valuable combined than separate:

  • What’s behind door one is the “donkey” (Facebook/Instagram leads)
  • What’s behind door two is the “donkey” (Data on timing of responses to emailed newsletters)
  • What’s behind door three is the winner – audience cohort primed to fill out an application (combined data can lead to better timing and more effective deployment of resources)

Sometimes you can stick to your guns, maintain your first decision and end up with the donkey! Pick the car and remember to synthesize insights from all your data sources to have the greatest impact on your institution.

Have more ideas on how to better use data to make decisions? We’d love to hear from you. Tweet at us @convergeorg or contacting us directly.


Valerie Henessee
Valerie Henessee
November 30, 2017