Decision-making processes of high school seniors engaged in the college choice process

S. Peter Birmingham, Fordham University


The purpose of the study was to gain insight into the decision making processes of adolescents who were engaged in the college choice process. The research addressed the following questions: (1) What decisions are made by a student in the college selection process, and what types of information does she/he use in making those decisions? (2) What factors significantly influence a student's decision in the college choice process? (3) Can a language-based approach and analysis offer a distinctive and meaningful perspective to the study of decision making, in general, and the college choice process, in particular?^ Six senior class students were involved in this case study of the college decision making process. Two of the participants were "A" students, two were "B" students, and two were "C+" students. Meetings between participants and their college counselor were audiotaped, transcribed, and subjected to verbal protocol analysis in order to trace the decision process. Concurrently, each participant kept a journal of activities and decisions reached outside of the formal counseling sessions. Parents of the participants were subsequently interviewed in order to gain their insights and perspectives on the decision process.^ The number and nature of decisions made by individual students in these case studies varied greatly, as did the extent of influencing factors. In particular, the study found parental influence to be pervasive in that the parents: both directly and indirectly influenced students' decisions; set boundaries or limitations within which the students made decisions; and made college choice decisions for the students. The nonsequential, noncompensatory approaches evident in the college decision making processes of these students suggest that the college decision process is too individualistic to be explained adequately by generalized decision models.^ The language-based methods followed in this investigation revealed dimensions to both adolescent decision making, for example lack of autonomy by the student, and the college selection process, such as the importance of parents as an influence and cost as a factor, which are not accurately represented in the literature. Present understandings of these processes need to be reevaluated in light of information and perceptions gained by creative research methodologies. ^

Subject Area

School counseling|Secondary education|Curriculum development|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Birmingham, S. Peter, "Decision-making processes of high school seniors engaged in the college choice process" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9226418.