What motivates students to choose their university?

University student in campus

Results revealed seven key factors by which students decide to choose a university

Each year, the educational data science organization, The National Research Center for College and University Admissions (NRCCUA), analyzes the findings of its “Survey of Admitted Students.” Results revealed seven key factors by which students decide to choose a university. This study has the potential to become an invaluable tool with which educational institutions could build their strategy of attracting students.

The survey, conducted to more than 100,000 high school students from various high schools in the US, exposed seven key reasons that influence their decision when choosing a university:

  1. Affordability
  2. Availability of a desired program
  3. Reputation of the university / academic quality
  4. Job opportunities upon graduation
  5. Value of education for cost
  6. Social pressure (feeling of fit)
  7. Proximity to home

Choices in public institutions vs. private

Most students from public institutions perceive the cost as the most important aspect when choosing a university, followed by "finding a desired program." Low-income students, many of them of Latin American origin, are more likely to end up attending public institutions –a choice influenced by affordability. The students in this segment recognize that their other alternatives were equally attractive or better in quality, but the cost made them select a specific public school.

On the other hand, private institution students chose considering the good reputation and perceived academic quality of their university, followed by the factor of "finding work upon graduation" and that of "finding a desired program." Also, the survey showed that the decisions of students from this segment are influenced by their family­ ­­–to a certain extent.

Strategies to attract students

Knowing these seven segments that influence the students’ choices, universities could focus their strategy on satisfying the needs of applicants before they decide to enroll in a university. It seems obvious that in public institutions the cost is decisive. However, some low-income students choose a university according to the program they wish to study. On the other hand, private institutions could emphasize their communication efforts aimed at parents, although, as this study states, the family has a secondary role; At present, students assume more responsibility.

Likewise, the survey showed that high school students make decisions in favor of a university when the institution is in constant communication with them, through interviews or text messages. In this regard, Kim Reid, principal analyst at Eduventures (a division of NRCCUA) and author of this study, recommends that universities should work with research during enrollment cycles. If the main concerns of each student are understood, their socioeconomic status and the factor that has the most influence on their decision are known, universities can create an effective attraction strategy.