Recruiting

Report: College Choice Hardly a Slam Dunk for Students

Although "affordability" and "reputation and academic quality" are the two top reasons why students apply to a particular college or university, they aren't the only reasons. Schools could increase their yield — the number who actually enroll after being accepted — by addressing other important factors in student communications too.

That's a finding from the latest "Survey of Admitted Students" from Eduventures, in which the research and advisory firm queried 30,000 students. As the company explained in its subscriber report, students entering the admission cycle take many other considerations into account — such as whether the institution offers the desired program, whether the student feels he or she would fit in, and what the prospects are for career outcomes and job opportunities. Then a single decisive factor comes into play.

As the report, "Balance Yield Activity," stated, "The data shows that institutions cannot fall into the trap of believing that students choose or do not choose an institution for one or even two typical reasons. Even for students choosing to attend public institutions in their home states, there is no one dominant deciding factor." For example, pointed out Principal Analyst and Author Kim Reid, although more than a fifth of students at in-state public institutions specify affordability as the deciding factor, there are many others who choose based on something else.

"By identifying students by decision segment early in the enrollment process rather than relying on a student's subgroup identity, you can create a tailored communication strategy during yield," she said in a prepared statement. "You can also mine data sources to gather critical feedback from admitted students to address their concerns."

Student concerns vary on whether they are considering attendance at a school that's in-state public (where affordability is the top factor for 22 percent), out-of-state public (where reputation and academic quality rule for 16 percent) or private (where reputation and academic quality were specified by 18 percent of respondents).

Other findings shared in the report include:

  • Female students are more likely to base their decisions on affordability, while men are more inclined to make decisions based on a school's reputation or career outcomes;
  • While underrepresented minorities, first-generation students and low-income students show up more often in the affordability segment, that grouping also encompasses other students;
  • Students with ACT or SAT scores in the top 50th percentile are more likely to base their decision on reputation rather than career outcomes; and
  • Students who lock onto a specific program offering tend to consider fewer schools and choose an institution earlier.

The report quoted student feedback advising that admission offices "could be more enthusiastic in their interest, make a stronger case as to why [students] should attend and have more contact."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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