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Journal of Marketing for Higher Education Vol. 20, No.

1, January June 2010, 19 48

The inuence of organizational image on college selection: what students seek in institutions of higher education
Andrea M. Pampaloni
Communication Department, La Salle University, PA, USA

Colleges and universities rely on their image to attract new members. This study focuses on the decision-making process of students preparing to apply to college. High school students were surveyed at college open houses to identify the factors most inuential to their college application decisionmaking. A multi-methods analysis found that institutional characteristics were more inuential than interpersonal or informational resources used by students. More specic results revealed that size, housing, and knowing someone who attended a school predicted students views of the schools atmosphere. Key ndings are discussed and recommendations offered to address issues related to organizational image. Keywords: organizational image; decision-making; higher education

Introduction For many students the decision to attend a college immediately after high school is foregone, having been decided years before any application is due. Other students might decide to pursue higher education in response to the realization that the life they have thus enjoyed is about to change drastically. For most, however, it is a stressful process (Whitehead, Raffan, & Deaney, 2006) that generally begins in conjunction with the start of high school, with a much more dedicated effort undertaken as the junior year approaches (Hossler, Schmit, & Vesper, 1999). Regardless of the incentive, the commitment to pursue continued education is often the rst major, life-changing decision an individual will make. As such it warrants attention for two reasons. First, external inuences are almost certain to be solicited to seek recommendations for guidance and direction. A better understanding of whom and what these inuences are and how they contribute to the nal decision may offer valuable insights into the decision-making process and help to identify possible outcomes. Second, considering the desired long-term outcome related to this decision, presumably a job upon graduation, it makes sense from an organizational perspective to recognize the factors that inuence the decision-making process at this early stage. Gaining a better understanding of the inuences on and outcomes of the


ISSN 0884-1241 print/ISSN 1540-7144 online # 2010 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/08841241003788037


A.M. Pampaloni

decision-making process of this population allows organizations to adapt their recruitment messages to target desired potential new employees who provide the best t within that organization. This study looks at how organizational image and the factors that contribute to it inuence the decision-making process of new, rst-year college students. To begin, a denition and overview of organizational image is provided. Next, inuences on decision-making specically within the context of higher education, are reviewed. This is discussed at two levels: rst looking at the inuences affecting potential students when selecting a college, and next considering the organizational inuences that colleges employ to inuence prospective members. The results of a survey of high school students conducted to identify characteristics inuential to their decision-making are reported, and key ndings are discussed, including recommendations for institutions of higher education to address the criteria identied by potential students as inuential to their decision-making. Within this text the terms colleges and universities are used interchangeably. Organizational image Although image has been dened as the perception of an organization held by both internal and external publics (Margulies, 1977; Scott & Jehn, 2003), or the views that organizational members believe outsiders hold of the organization (Dutton & Dukerich, 1991; Dutton et al., 1994), for the purposes of this discussion organizational image is considered to be the views and perceptions of an organization held by non-members exclusively (Berg, 1986; Hatch & Schultz, 2002). Image is created by an organization to persuade outsiders that the organization represents specic and desirable characteristics. It can be conveyed interpersonally, through direct or indirect contact with an organization or its members, or more indirectly based on the mission statement and stated goals of the organization (Gray, 1991). The perceptions non-members have of an organization directly inuences future contact with that organization. Although universities share some characteristics with their corporate peers, such as competition for members, the nature of their business is very different, and they do not function under the same parameters (Cerit, 2006; Lewison & Hawes, 2007; Luque-Martinez & Del Barrio-Garcia, 2009). As such, the strategies and tactics they use to attract potential members and the image that is created as a result of their efforts takes on added importance. For schools that are smaller and not as well-known as others with which they compete for new students, there is an added burden because image has greater signicance when consumers have had minimal direct experience with an organization (Sung & Yang, 2008). Likewise, research suggests that the image of a given school is relative to that of other schools. As such the perception of image is more inuential than the actual image (Elliot & Healy, 2001; Ivy, 2001). For example, if University X is featured in news reports because students were arrested for ghting, potential students (and those that inuence their decision-making) may perceive that the school is

Journal of Marketing for Higher Education


unsafe. This may hold true even after it is determined that the ght occurred across the street from campus, the people involved were not enrolled at the school, and University X has the safest campus in the city. This supports Wan and Schells (2007) view that image congruency the reection of the publics desires and expectations strongly inuences how people view organizations. For institutions of higher education, image is important because it helps create a positive view of the organization, which determines if potential members are attracted enough to want to become afliated. The inuence of image can be seen in the decision-making process of potential members; that is, rst time students, which is discussed next. Factors inuencing students decision-making Deciding to attend college is often monumental to a young person. It is compounded by the fact that a dened time frame mandates the process and that the outcomes can be potentially signicant. Additional life-changing considerations include the possibility of moving to a new location, developing new relationships, accruing debt, and deciding on a course of action that might signicantly affect future life and career plans. Galottis (1995) longitudinal study on the decision-making process of collegebound high school students provides insights on the number and type of criteria used and the alternatives available to students as they make decisions about what colleges to pursue. The ndings indicate that the types of criteria used to evaluate schools were only marginally different between students with higher or average academic ability versus those with lower ability. Conversely, differences were reported in the types of criteria reported, based on academic ability and gender. Galottis ndings indicate that students academic ability inuences both the number and types of decision criteria they consider when making decisions about college. Other studies looking at factors that inuence decision-making in adolescents focus on different demographic characteristics of students such as race (Freeman, 1999), geographic origin (Kelpe Kern, 2000; Lapan, Tucker, Kim, & Kosciulek, 2003; Powell & Luzzo, 1998), and nancial issues (Bergerson, 2009; DesJardins, Ahlburg, & McCall, 2006; Perna & Titus, 2004). Related studies consider attributes that might inuence students decisions to pursue higher education. For example, high school students with high levels of career maturity, including competencies in decision-making skills, are more committed to making career choices (Powell & Luzzo, 1998). This could include the decision to attend college. Across studies, several factors emerged as being consistently inuential. These can be categorized as interpersonal inuences and informational inuences. Interpersonal inuences Interpersonal inuences are the strongest inuences on rst time students when engaging in decision-making about their future, specically with reference to


A.M. Pampaloni

higher education or careers. Of the individuals from whom high school students sought guidance and information, parents are overwhelmingly identied as the single strongest inuence during the school selection process (Bergerson, 2009; Cabrera & LaNasa, 2000; Helwig, 2004; Hossler et al., 1999; Ketterson & Bluestein, 1997; Moogan, Baron, & Harris, 1999; Otto, 2000; Paulsen, 1990; Rowan-Kenyon, Bell, & Perna, 2008; Sachs, 2002; Scott & Daniel, 2001). Parental involvement has many components. It can be classied loosely as unstructured support such as encouragement, motivation, and providing a sense of expectations, and as practical support such as assisting with preparation of forms, or offering to pay for, or, more notably, actually saving to pay for college (Cabrera & LaNasa, 2000; Hossler et al., 1999). An interesting contradiction to this nding is that as students come closer to nalizing their decisionmaking plans, typically in the second half of their nal year of high school, the inuence of counselors and teachers increases, sometimes becoming even more prominent than that of parents (Helwig, 2004; Hossler et al., 1999). Friends and other family members are also inuential in the college decision-making process, though to a notably lesser extent than parents (Hossler et al., 1999). Given their role in the college application process, it is not surprising that school counselors inuence students decision-making. However, throughout the literature, counselors are portrayed simultaneously as being inuential and needing to be more inuential in the process (Baker, 2002; Helwig, 2004; Johnson, 2000; Kelpe Kern, 2000; Ketterson & Bluestein, 1997; Mitchell, 1975). One area identied as a way in which counselors can be more proactive is through career planning (Baker, 2002; Lane, 2000; Lapan et al., 2003). Career planning has been found to help students develop skills, including self-acceptance, awareness and understanding of work-related concepts, decision-making, and self-development skills (Mitchell, 1975). Informational resources In addition to interpersonal inuences, potential college students receive information produced by schools, either intentionally through a direct request or unintentionally as part of a marketing campaign from the school (Cabrera & LaNasa, 2000). The inuence of printed college literature on decisionmaking is mixed. In a longitudinal study following eight students from high school through their college years, the general consensus was that materials sent from the colleges were not used to come to a decision, though they were inuential in conrming a choice (Hossler et al., 1999). Another study specic to viewbook photos found a strong emphasis on the social and relational aspects of colleges with minimal, if any, reference to more realistic or specic elements such as health and safety or religious beliefs. This study also noted that although differences were found in the emphasis and quantity of photos used by top tier and lower tier schools, the visual images shown were generally similar (Klassen, 2000). Nonetheless, viewbooks remain an instrumental promotional

Journal of Marketing for Higher Education


tool used by schools to depict both the lifestyle students who attend the school can expect as well as their institutions values (Anctil, 2008). The preferred medium of students seeking information about colleges is the Internet (Adams & Eveland, 2007; Anctil, 2008; Ramasubramanian, Gyure, & Mursi, 2002). Students entering college today are among the highest users of computers and online technologies (Day, Janus, & Davis, 2005). Twenty percent of college students began using computers between the ages of ve and eight; by the time they were 16 to 18 years old all of todays current college students had begun using computers (Jones, 2002). Further, a 2009 report by Pew Internet Project found that 93% of teens between the ages of 12 17 use the Internet regularly. The Internet continues to grow as a resource for students for seeking information about colleges (Horrigan & Raine, 2006; Mentz & Whiteside, 2003), with 57% of online teenagers saying that they have gone online to get information about a college, university, or other school they are thinking about attending (Lenhart, Madden, & Hitlin, 2005). Since current students have had Internet access for their entire lives, it is not surprising that it is their primary resource for researching colleges and universities (Mentz & Whiteside, 2004). Multiple studies have looked at the increasing importance of Web sites to students seeking information about college (Gordona & Berhow, 2009; Kang & Norton, 2006; McAllister-Spooner, 2008; Poock & Lefond, 2001; Ramasubramanian, Gyure, & Mursi, 2002). While schools recognize the importance of maintaining an updated, well-organized, and content-appropriate site, there are areas in which they can improve the information they are providing and how they present it to better meet the expectations of their technologically savvy audiences (Hegeman, Davies, & Banning, 2007; Kang & Norton, 2006; McAllister & Taylor, 2007). This takes on added importance because students are inuenced by the reputation and word-of-mouth recommendations of others when making decisions about which school to pursue (Anctil, 2008; Sung & Yang, 2008), thus colleges and universities must be attentive to the image they portray through their organizations site. Several other factors emerge as inuential when selecting a college. While certainly not an exhaustive list, ve criteria beyond the interpersonal inuences already noted are identied repeatedly. They are majors/programs offered, reputation, nancial issues specically costs and availability of aid, extracurricular/sporting opportunities, and campus attributes, such as location, setting, and atmosphere (Cabrera & LaNasa, 2000; Coccari & Javalgi, 1995; Comm & LaBay, 1996; Galotti & Mark, 1994; Henrickson, 2002; Hossler et al., 1999; Kelpe Kern, 2000; Letawsky, Schneider, Pedersen, & Palmer, 2003; Mattern & Wyatt, 2009). These factors are consistently identied as inuential across gender, geography, and socioeconomic groups, suggesting they are highly relevant to students during their decision-making process. It is also important to recognize that potential students may have different goals. Many students attend college to prepare for a future career, while


A.M. Pampaloni

others select a specic school because of the opportunities offered, such as nancial aid or scholarships. Still others may make their choice based on the location of the school or specic programs offered. Failing to consider differing audience goals and to whom the message is directed can impede the recipients decision-making process. For example, a study evaluating the factors that inuence athletes to consider attending a university nds that the messages sent had a narrow focus (Letawsky et al., 2003). That is, the messages focused on issues related to athletics and did not address the academic concerns cited by athletes as most important to their decision-making. Of the ve reasons cited by participants as factors inuencing their college choice, only two were related to athletics, and neither was the most frequently identied. Sending an unclear or limited message may portray an image that is inconsistent with the schools intent and thus negatively inuence potential members. To make students aware of these and other characteristics that might inuence their decision-making, schools provide targeted information via their print literature and Web sites. Schools should present a message that is both accurate and desirable to provide adequate information to allow for informed decisionmaking. Recognizing this, many schools have adapted their Web sites to showcase specic images and incorporate key features such as online tours and applications that appeal to students seeking information (Anctil, 2008; Ramasubramanian, Gyure, & Mursi, 2002). Regarding the effectiveness of organizational literature, however, students perceptions are mixed. This could indicate a need for organizations to adapt their strategies in using these resources to inuence potential members. One alternative is for colleges to target distribution of organizational literature to coincide with students increased search activities. This typically occurs during their third year of school during which time they focus on external sources of information (Hossler et al., 1999). For students who have indicated an interest in a school, follow-up information should be sent early in the beginning of their nal year in school since most students apply to colleges between October and April of their senior year, with 50% of applications sent between November and January (Hossler et al., 1999). Research questions This research underscores the intertwined relationship between individuals and organizations. Understanding the factors that inuence decision-making of potential members provides a clearer picture of their desired relationship with an organization. Gaining a clearer understanding of what members are looking for allows for a better match between the student and the school, which could lead to higher retention rates. Likewise a rewarding college experience could result in more satised and active alumni as well as increased wordof-mouth promotion for the university. These outcomes benet both students and the school. The primary objective of this research is to identify the resources used by potential members high school students when making

Journal of Marketing for Higher Education


decisions about the colleges and universities to which they will apply. The following research questions are posed: (RQ1) What types of interpersonal and informational resources inuence the decision-making process of a potential student to become afliated with an institution of higher education? (RQ2) What characteristics associated with institutions of higher education are most consistently desired by new members? (RQ3) How do institutions of higher education make potential members aware that they have the characteristics desired by potential members? Having a greater awareness of the factors that contribute to student decisionmaking allows schools to focus on those key areas. While schools cannot and should not attempt to be everything to everyone, recognizing characteristics that students deem as important might help schools address these key factors, thereby providing students with relevant information necessary to inform their selection process. Doing so may contribute to a more positive organizational image by potential members. Method To understand how outsiders view an organization, their direct involvement must be solicited. This research considered viewpoints of external audiences by surveying potential organizational members; that is, high school students planning on attending college. Data collection Permission to attend an open house to survey potential incoming students was requested and granted from seven schools in New Jersey that had participated in related research. Permission was requested for the primary researcher and/or an assistant to attend an open house for high school students for the purpose of collecting survey data. In exchange for authorizing attendance, each school was offered copies of the results upon completion of the study. Open houses provided an excellent venue for collecting data for several reasons. Since parents typically accompany students to open houses, consent could be obtained for the participation of the students who were under the age of 18 years. Also, attendance at an open house suggests a higher level of interest and commitment to pursuing afliation with a college than do more passive types of research such as reviewing viewbooks or conducting an Internet search. As such, these students are likely to be more aware of the characteristics that are important to their decision-making. Likewise, any previous research conducted via review of printed materials, a Web search, or interpersonal contacts informs students of the possible attributes a school might


A.M. Pampaloni

have, which might alert them to the presence of key characteristics that may affect their pursuit of a specic characteristic(s) or school. This heightened awareness made students attending open house events preferred participants for the survey. At each open house, the primary researcher or an assistant approached students who were together with their parents. A brief introduction and overview of the project was offered, and their participation was requested. The assent form required a signature from the students to ensure they understood why the survey was being conducted and how the results would be used. Students who were under 18 years of age were given a consent form along with the survey and parents were also given a consent form. Students who were 18 years or older were given only the assent form and survey. Both consent forms and assent forms were separated from the surveys at the end of each open house and stored separately to ensure participant anonymity. Students who declined to participate were thanked for their time and left alone. Parents had the option of requesting a copy of the nal results by checking a box on the consent form and providing a mailing address. Those who made such a request were sent a copy of the results. Instrument The primary objective of the survey (Appendix 1) was to identify the resources that inuence high school students when making decisions about applying to colleges or universities. Four open-ended questions requested that students identify specic desirable qualities or characteristics they sought in schools. In addition, students were asked to select responses from a series of 7-point Likert scale questions, with 1 being strongly disagree and 7 being strongly agree, that listed various institutional characteristics, interpersonal sources, and informational resources that might inuence their decision-making in this context. Demographic data about the students high school, their accessibility to computers, and their attendance at college open houses was also requested. Additional open-ended questions positioned after the Likert-scale questions offered students the opportunity to add information that was not included on the survey (e.g., Is there something else you look for in a school that is not on the list?). A total of 249 surveys were collected. Although not all surveys were completed entirely, either the open-ended or the Likert-type questions were answered on every survey, making them all usable in some form. Open-ended questions Four open-ended questions solicited information about characteristics of schools that students sought when making decisions about applying or attending. Two respondents did not complete any of the open-ended questions.

Journal of Marketing for Higher Education


In some cases one or more open-ended questions were not answered (Q1: n 4; Q2: n 17; Q3: n 18; Q4: n 8). Open-ended questions allow for a richer description than is afforded by limited response choices and also allows the opportunity for respondents to include or expand on the selection criteria that they deem as important in the school selection process. Students were asked to write answers to the following questions: (1) What are three things that would make you choose a certain college? (2) How do colleges let you know that they are the kind of school that you want to go to? (3) Realistically, what school (or what kind of school) do you think you will attend and why? (4) Please nish this sentence: When I nally select a college to attend it will be because ________________. As suggested by previously cited research (Bergerson, 2009; Cabrera & LaNasa, 2000; Galotti and Mark, 1994; Henrickson, 2002; Hossler et al., 1999; Kelpe Kern, 2000; Letawsky et al., 2003; Rowan-Kenyon, Bell, & Perna, 2008), students consider multiple characteristics when applying to a college. Thus it is worthwhile to consider the inuence of these characteristics on the decisionmaking process. The intent of the open-ended questions was to solicit specic information from students to isolate unique or common characteristics that may be more inuential than others. To better understand the inuence of these emergent characteristics, it was decided that the results of the openended questions would serve as dependent variables for the data analyses. The rst dependent variable (DV1) would be represented by the number of distinct, nonrepeated decision criteria stated by respondents across all four open-ended questions. The second (DV2) and third dependent (DV3) variables would be determined by the responses provided to the third and fourth open-ended questions, respectively, as these questions best encapsulate the desired decision outcomes of the participants.

Likert-scale items The Likert-scale items represented the independent variables and were presented in two sections. The rst set of items included institutional characteristics that students might seek when deciding to apply to a school. Responses include academic programs, athletics, commuter versus dorm school, cost, faculty, family or friend who had attended, availability of aid, organizations, housing, internships, location, religious afliation, reputation, safety school, size, social life, and study abroad programs. The second set of responses identied sources of information that might be inuential to students. The responses in this category cite both interpersonal and informational sources. Interpersonal sources include clergy, family member or friend, recruiters, teachers, interviews, campus tours, and


A.M. Pampaloni

college fairs. Informational sources include Web sites, magazine rankings, college guides, materials sent by schools, and materials requested by students. Research suggests the inuence of printed materials on students is limited (Anctil, 2008; Galotti, 2000; Hossler et al., 1999). This study will attempt to better determine if and how informational sources are used by students. A pilot test was conducted to conrm the clarity of the open-ended questions and to determine if additional characteristics would be suggested by respondents. Undergraduate students from two communication courses at a large, mid-Atlantic university were offered extra credit to complete the survey. All students participated, and 41 surveys were collected. The responses provided were in line with the expectations for the listed questions, and no new characteristics were suggested, thus the survey was considered valid. Data analysis Open-ended questions Responses to each of the four questions were transcribed and entered into an Excel spreadsheet to help organize and sort responses. The four questions yielded more than 1800 responses. Multiple responses to an individual question were often provided. In such cases each response was treated as a separate answer. For example, if a student answered that cost and location were factors that would inuence his or her decision to attend a school, both responses (cost and location) were coded individually. Since the questions sought different types of responses and respondents often provided multiple answers, a broad range of categories was dened. The primary researcher reviewed all responses and used an open-coding system to create a preliminary coding scheme consisting of 23 categories. As is typical of this methodology, the number of categories (Appendix 2) were collapsed to a total of 15 through regrouping and consolidation (Lindlof & Taylor, 2002; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). The primary researcher and three coders, one undergraduate and two graduate students, analyzed a random sample of 20% of the completed surveys (n 50) to validate the coding categories. A coding sheet created by the primary researcher was provided to the three other coders and the categories explained. Although the primary coder had developed the coding sheet, her participation in the coding session was deemed appropriate because as a result of the sorting process all responses had been grouped alphabetically rather than by respondent. This process, combined with the sheer volume of data, made it virtually impossible to link any individual responses back to a specic survey. Thus, although she had greater knowledge of the coding categories, her role in coding the survey data was comparable to that of the other coders. A pretest was given to the three coders to ensure a common understanding of the categories. Representative examples taken from the completed surveys were

Journal of Marketing for Higher Education


listed and the coders were asked to independently identify the category they felt best described the response. All three coders provided responses identical to those of the primary researcher. After reviewing the pretest, all four coders independently coded the 50 surveys. Intercoder reliability was computed based on the number of times identical responses were provided among the coders. Cronbachs alpha was .97 (range .961 .975; M 1.8; SD 1.04). A limited number of responses were provided to the three additional openended questions; those comments were consolidated by the primary researcher and collectively discussed by all four coders rather than independently coded. A response that matched one of the characteristics included among the Likertscale choices was coded accordingly. All remaining responses were reviewed and categorized using one of the coding categories that resulted from analysis of the four open-ended questions. Likert-scale items A multiple methods approach using quantitative analyses of data was employed. In coding the responses to the open-ended questions, several write-in responses matched characteristics that were included in the Likert-scales. Where duplication existed between write-in responses and the Likert-scale responses, bivariate correlation procedures were performed. A Pearsons correlation coefcient was determined using pairwise-exclusion and a two-tailed test of signicance. Correlations indicate the degree of the relationship between two variables. In this case, correlations were run between responses to the open-ended questions and the Likert-scale choices to determine if the responses were consistent. For example, a student might write in programs, cost, and atmosphere as reasons for choosing a school. The rst two responses, programs and cost, are listed among the Likert-scale choices. Thus it is reasonable to expect that a student who provided such responses would give a high ranking to the identical Likert-scale choices, suggesting greater consistency of responses. Descriptive statistics and multiple regression analyses were also calculated for the Likert-scale questions. Multiple regression analysis was used to evaluate the Likert-scale responses. This method is used to predict a relationship between a dependent variable and multiple independent variables. Within this study it provided a better understanding of the relationship between inuences on students college decision-making and the resources they seek. Multiple regression also explains the relative degree to which a series of variables contribute to the multiple prediction of a variable (Williams & Monge, 2001). An exploratory analysis was conducted to test the inuence of the independent variables (the Likert-scale items) on three separate dependent variables. As noted, dependent variable 1 (DV1) was represented by the number of distinct decisionmaking criteria employed by students. DV2 represented a specic school or type of school a student would like to attend. DV3 reected the more intangible aspects of the school to which students were drawn, frequently described as the


A.M. Pampaloni

environment or feel of the school. The most frequently cited responses to the third and fourth open-ended questions from the survey were used to determine these variables. Because these responses were unique from the Likert-scale responses, their distinctiveness from the independent variables conrmed their validity as dependent variables. In total, the multiple methodologies allow for more comprehensive analyses of the data. Using different tests allows for both exploration and conrmation of the ndings. In addition, because all methodologies have weaknesses, using multiple methods can offer clarity and complimentarity of the analysis, thereby avoiding any limitations that may be inherent in a given method. Results The surveys considered the views of potential members rst time students as critical to the organizational image. A multi-method approach was used to analyze survey data in response to the research questions that look at the school characteristics and the interpersonal and informational resources that inuence students in their decision-making process. Descriptive statistics Demographic information related to the college selection process was requested of participants. The majority of students (N 227) were White (71.4%, n 162). Other ethnic groups included Asian Americans/Pacic Islanders (9.6%, n 24), Hispanics/Latin Americans (8.8%, n 20), African Americans/ Black (4.4%, n 10), and Native American/American Indian (0.4%, n 1). Although this distribution is slightly skewed based on national trends (US Department of Education, 2005; US Department of Labor, 2000), it supports more recent studies that report increased enrollments among racially diverse populations, particularly Hispanic and Asian American (Anderson, 2003). All respondents reported a lot (93.4%) or some (6.6%) computer access, and all but one respondent had a computer at home. The majority of respondents (N 224) were high school seniors (75%, n 168). Participants were from both public (87.5%, n 196) and private (12.5%, n 28) high schools, primarily from New Jersey (87.3%, n 185) as well as surrounding states (NY: 4.7%, n 10; PA: 4.2%, n 9; CT: 1.9%, n 4; New England area: 1.4%, n 3). The majority of respondents began planning to attend college between one and two years prior to taking the survey (56.7%, n 105). The majority of participants were beginning their high school senior year when they completed the survey suggests that planning began between their sophomore and senior year. This is in line with other research that nds that students increase their school search activity in their junior year of high school (Hossler et al., 1999). Additionally, participants had visited between one and 15 colleges, with a

Journal of Marketing for Higher Education

Table 1. Demographic characteristics of students applying to institutions of higher education. Variable Public vs. private HS Computer ownership Computer access Number of colleges visited Year in HS State HS located County HS located N 224 229 227 225 224 212 193 Public 87.5 Family 59 A lot 93.4 13 64.4 Senior 75 NJ 87.3 Middlesex 14.5 White 71.4 Private 12.5 Student 40.6 Some 6.6 46 26.7 Junior 21 NY 4.7 Bergen 10.9 Asian Am. Pacic Islander 10.6 Responses


None 0.4 None 7 9 5.3 Soph 1.3 PA 4.2 Monmouth 8.3 Hispanic/ Latino 8.8 10 + 3.4 Non-HS 2.7 CT 1.9 Other NJ county 53.9 African American 4.4

Other 1.9 Non-NJ 12.4 Other 4.8

Note: HS high school.


mean of 3.32 (SD 2.38) schools each. Demographic characteristics are summarized in Table 1. Descriptive statistics were performed on the seven-point Likert-scale items. The institutional characteristics most frequently cited by students as inuential to their decision-making were in line with previous research. The characteristics were academic programs (95%, M 6.55, SD 1.00), location (90%, M 6.00, SD 1.26), and cost (85%, M 5.83, SD 1.28). The least inuential were religious afliation (21%, M 3.31, SD 1.75), family or friend attended the school (31%, M 3.62, SD 1.75), and athletics (41%, M 4.08, SD 1.77). Responses to the interpersonal and informational resources used to attract new students were not as strong. The most inuential interpersonal sources were tours/open house (86%, M 5.80, SD 1.20), teachers (73%, M 5.21, SD 1.38), and interviews at the school (72%, M 5.20, SD 1.35). The least inuential interpersonal sources were clergy (9%, M 2.85, SD 1.51), family/friends (55%, M 4.44, SD 1.62), and college fairs (50%, M 4.47, SD 1.55). The most inuential informational resources were college Web sites (74%, M 5.21, SD 1.41), materials requested from schools (69%, M 5.15, SD 1.32), and magazine rankings (57%, M 4.62, SD 1.50). College guides (50%, M 4.53, SD 1.41) and unsolicited materials sent by schools (44%, M 4.45, SD 1.51) were at the lower end of the informational resources used. Table 2 displays frequencies, percentages, and measures of central tendency for these variables.


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Table 2. Frequencies of factors inuencing students decision to apply to institutions of higher education by school characteristics and resources used to attract students. Frequencies IV1: School Characteristics Academic programs/Majors Athletics/Sports Commuter vs. dorms Cost Faculty Family/Friend attend school Financial aid/Scholarships Groups/Orgs/Greek life Housing Internships Location Religious afliation Reputation Safety school Size Social life Study abroad N 248 244 246 246 245 246 245 245 246 245 244 245 246 242 246 246 246 Mean 6.55 4.08 5.43 5.83 5.39 3.62 5.74 4.29 5.53 5.53 6.00 3.31 5.47 5.06 5.46 5.58 4.53 SD 1.00 1.77 1.39 1.28 1.31 1.75 1.32 1.73 1.38 1.32 1.26 1.75 1.32 1.52 1.25 1.28 1.79 1.51 1.55 1.62 1.53 1.35 1.47 1.38 1.20 1.41 1.41 1.50 1.51 1.32 Percent Agree1 95.2 41.4 74.8 85.0 75.9 30.5 83.3 48.1 81.7 78.0 89.8 21.2 77.2 64.8 78.0 80.4 47.6 9.3 49.6 54.7 60.1 71.5 50.2 72.7 86.4 49.8 74.3 57.0 44.1 69.2 Percent Neutral 3.2 28.7 17.9 10.6 16.3 29.7 10.6 24.5 11.8 14.7 6.6 33.9 17.1 21.5 15.9 14.6 29.3 34.4 28.3 21.8 19.7 19.6 30.8 18.1 10.0 32.4 12.7 24.1 32.9 21.6 Percent Disagree2 1.6 29.9 7.3 4.4 7.7 39.8 6.1 27.4 6.4 7.3 3.6 44.9 5.6 13.7 6.1 4.8 23.1 56.4 22.1 23.5 20.2 8.9 19.0 9.2 3.4 17.8 13.1 18.9 23.0 9.2

IV2: Interpersonal and Informational Resources Clergy (priest/rabbi/imam) 227 2.85 College fair 226 4.47 Family/Friend 225 4.44 HS guidance counselor 228 4.69 Interview at the school 224 5.20 Recruiters 227 4.60 Teachers 227 5.21 Tour/Open house 230 5.80 College guides 225 4.53 College Web sites 229 5.21 Magazine ranking 228 4.62 Materials sent by schools 222 4.45 Materials reqt from schools 227 5.15

Notes: 1includes responses strongly agree, agree, agree somewhat; 2includes responses strongly disagree, disagree, disagree somewhat.

Correlations Because the subjective responses to the open-ended questions often identied the same characteristics included among the Likert-scale options, correlations were performed to check for consistency in responses. Upon coding the openended questions, seven categories of responses (academic programs, location, cost, nancial aid, reputation, size, and faculty) were found to be identical to categories included among the Likert-scale responses. Responses from both groups, the open-ended questions and matching Likert-scale responses, were correlated and are presented in Table 3. The purpose of running correlations between the open-ended and these Likert-item responses was to look for relationships among responses to both sets of questions. Although ve of seven of the

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Table 3. Correlations between responses to open-ended questions and Likert-scale items. Likert-scale item IV1: School Characteristics Academic programs/Majors Location Cost Financial aid/Scholarships Reputation Size Faculty Commuter vs. dorms Housing Internships Study abroad Athletics Groups/Orgs/Greek life 1_Programs .10/242 1_Location .29 /238 1_Cost .15 /240 1_Aid .13 /239 1_Rep .24 /240 1_Size .36 /240 1_Faculty .11/239 1_Campus .06/240 .075/240 1_Career Prep .16 /239 .00/240 1_Orgs .27 /238 .07/239 2_Programs .11/224 2_Location .14 /221 2_Cost .04/222 2_Aid .09/222 2_Rep .15 /223 2_Size .01/223 2_Faculty .09/220 2_Campus .10/223 .19 /224 2_Career Prep .10/222 .11/224 2_Orgs .11/220 .03/222 4_Outreach .10/220 .06/217 .10/220 .11/220 .06/218 .03/213 .12/218 3_Programs .00/222 3_Location .08/221 3_Cost .11/220 3_Aid .08/221 3_Rep .05/222 3_Size .28 /222 3_Faculty .09/220 3_Campus .03/221 .03/222 3_Career Prep .17 /221 .06/223 3_Orgs .24 /218 .07/221 Responses to open-ended questions (Pearson correlation coefcient/Number of valid cases)


4_Programs .09/233 4_Location .13 /231 4_Cost .04/222 4_Aid .09/231 4_Rep .09/233 4_Size .16 /233 4_Campus .02/232 .05/233 4_Career Prep .04/232 .07/234 4_Orgs .19 /229 .09/232

IV2: Interpersonal and Informational Resources 2_Outreach Tour/Open house .11/212 College fair .04/208 College Web sites .00/211 Interview at the school .05/207 Materials student requests .07/210 Materials schools send .09/205 Recruiters .08/210
Note: p , .05 (two-tailed);

p , .01 (two-tailed).

Likert-items were signicantly correlated with at least one of the four openended questions, weak ndings indicate that these results should be interpreted cautiously. Still, these ndings suggest that students showed a degree of consistency across responses, suggesting greater reliability of responses. In addition, three coding categories included references to multiple school characteristics identied among the Likert-scale items. Campus included the Likert items housing and commuter versus dorm. Career preparation included internships and study abroad programs. Organizations included athletics and groups/organizations. These multivariable categories were correlated with the open-ended questions. Again, although ndings were weak, three of the four multivariable categories showed signicant correlations with at least one


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Table 4. Summary of multiple regression models showing relationship between all dependent and independent variables. Number of Decision Criteria (DV1) IV1 R R2 adj R F df .23 .05 2 .02 .72 17 IV2 .20 .04 2 .02 .67 13 School Type (DV2) IV1 .25 .06 2 .02 .76 17 IV2 .18 .03 2 .04 .47 13 Atmosphere (DV3) IV1 .38 .14 .07 2.06 17 IV2 .28 .08 .02 1.64 13

Notes: IV1 School characteristics; IV2 Interpersonal and informational resources; These analyses yield signicant ndings.

of the four open-ended questions, further suggesting that students showed a degree of consistency across responses. Multiple regression analysis Multiple regression analyses were conducted to predict relationships between the dependent variables and independent variables. Standard multiple regression analyses were performed using each of the three dependent variables (DV1: number of decision criteria, DV2: school type, and DV3: atmosphere) and two independent variables, represented by each grouping of Likert-scale choices. The rst grouping (IV1) included the school characteristics students might look for when making decisions about applying to a college; the second grouping (IV2) included the resources students might seek, both interpersonal and informational. Table 4 summarizes the regression analysis models for all of the variables. No signicant relationships were found between either DV1 or DV2 and IV1 or IV2. The model using DV3 (atmosphere) and IV1 (school characteristics) yielded signicant results. R2 for the model was .143, and adjusted R2 was .07. The variables that signicantly predicted students views of the schools atmosphere were family or friend attended the school (t 2.50, p .01), size (t 2.42, p .01), and housing (t 2.18, p .03). Religious afliation (t 2.38, p .02) was also found to be signicant; however, the relationship was negative. When considering the resources students sought (IV2) when making decisions about applying to schools, college Web sites (t 2.60, p .01) were found to have a signicant inverse relationship in how students viewed the schools atmosphere. R2 for the model was .081, and adjusted R2 was .02. Table 5 displays the unstandardized regression coefcients (B) and standardized regression coefcients (b) for each variable. The rst research question asked what types of interpersonal and informational resources inuence students in their decision-making process. Based on the 7-point Likert scale, respondents were more likely to indicate some level of agreement (strongly agree, agree, somewhat agree) rather than a

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Table 5. Summary of regression analysis for variables predicting that school characteristics and interpersonal/informational resources will inuence students view of atmosphere. Variables IV1: School Characteristics Academic programs/Majors Athletics Commuter vs. dorms Cost Faculty Family/Friend attend school Financial aid/Scholarships Groups/Organizations/Greek life Housing Internships Location Religious afliation Reputation Safety school Size Social life Study abroad IV2: Interpersonal and Informational Resources Tour/Open house Clergy (priest/rabbi/imam) College fair College guides College Web sites Family/friend HS guidance counselor Interview at the school Magazine ranking Materials students request Materials schools send Recruiters Teachers
Note: p , .05; p , .01; HS high school.

B 2.73E-02 3.14E-02 1.76E-02 2.11E-02 2.30E-04 5.21E-02 6.61E-03 1.37E-03 6.07E-02 2.26E-02 1.35E-02 5.27E-02 4.07E-02 5.07E-02 7.32E-02 2.77E-02 6.82E-03 1.23E-02 4.42E-02 2.26E-02 2.35E-02 7.75E-02 1.16E-02 4.69E-02 1.88E-02 3.30E-02 1.51E-02 4.91E-02 2.17E-02 6.20E-02

SE B .04 .02 .03 .03 .03 .02 .03 .02 .03 .03 .03 .02 .03 .03 .03 .03 .02 .03 .03 .03 .03 .03 .03 .03 .03 .03 .03 .03 .03 .03

.06 .11 2 .05 2 .06 .00 .19 2 .02 .01 .17 2 .06 2 .04 2 .19 2 .11 2 .16 .19 2 .07 2 .03 .03 2 .14 .07 .07 -.22 .04 .15 .05 .10 .04 2 .15 .07 2 .17

level of disagreement (strongly disagree, disagree, somewhat disagree) that interpersonal sources had some inuence on their decision to apply to a college. These included campus tours/open houses (M 5.80, SD 1.20), teachers (M 5.21, SD 1.39), interviews at the school (M 5.20, SD 1.35), high school guidance counselors (M 4.69, SD 1.53), recruiters (M 4.60, SD 1.47), college fairs (M 4.47, SD 1.55), and family members/friends (M 4.44, SD 1.62). The sole exception in this category was clergy (M 2.85, SD 1.51). The average of the means of these scores (M 4.66) suggests neutrality to weak agreement that interpersonal resources inuence students decision to apply to a school. It appears interpersonal sources physically located at colleges are most inuential, as indicated by higher frequencies for open houses and interviews at the school.


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Responses to the open-ended questions yielded mixed results regarding the inuence of interpersonal sources. For example, although faculty was identied as a reason why a student would select a school, only 2.57% of respondents identied it specically. The campus category was identied by 13.93% of respondents and included references to staff, students, and people at the school, among other characteristics. However, individual characteristics were not analyzed separately to determine to what degree they contributed to the overall category. Another category, outreach, was comprised of multiple interpersonal and informational sources and was frequently identied (70.2%). As with the campus category, however, the degree to which individual interpersonal or informational resources contributed to the overall results was not determined. The survey also allowed for write-in responses to explicate the Likert scales. Twenty-seven respondents provided comments. After eliminating responses that duplicated the Likert-scale choices, comments referencing interpersonal inuences included coaches (n 2), alumni (n 1), other people who attended or visited the school (n 3), word of mouth (n 1), peers (n 1), and phone calls (n 1). In summary, although several interpersonal sources were cited, their effect appears limited. Similar levels of agreement were found among the informational resources: materials requested from schools (M 5.15, SD 1.32), magazine rankings (M 4.62, SD 1.50), college guides (M 4.53, SD 1.41), and unsolicited materials sent by schools (M 4.45, SD 1.51). Although the multiple regression analysis found college Web sites to have a negative inuence, the frequency with which the category was identied by students as inuential (M 5.21, SD 1.41) indicates mixed results. A possible explanation for this could be confusion about the category. Although the Likert-scale item was labeled as college Web sites, some students may have considered other college-related Web sites to be included, such as The frequency with which this was included in the write-in responses suggests that it is a notable resource among this group. Additional resources identied through the open-ended questions included online sources, information packets, catalogs, mailed information, advertising, and other materials used by colleges to solicit new members. As noted, however, these responses were combined with multiple other responses, thus the individual inuence of these specic resources was not calculated. Among the write-in answers, electronic sources were most frequently identied (n 10), including six responses that cited a specic Web site ( as an additional resource. Similar to the interpersonal sources, the average of the informational resources scores (M 4.79) likewise suggested neutrality to weak agreement regarding the inuence of informational resources on students decision to apply to a school. School characteristics (IV1) were rated higher than the interpersonal and informational resources (IV2) used by students to make their decisions to apply. Thus in response to RQ2, size, housing, and knowing a family member

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or friend who attended the school inuenced prospective students. Additionally, the frequency with which respondents identied programs offered (M 6.55, SD .99) and location (M 6.00, SD 1.26) indicate that they likewise inuence student decision-making. Five other areas had mean scores of over 5.5, suggesting higher levels of agreement than neutrality. Those areas were cost (M 5.83, SD 1.28), nancial aid/scholarships (M 5.74, SD 1.32), social life (M 5.58, SD 1.28), housing (M 5.53, SD 1.38), and internships (M 5.53, SD 1.32). This broad range of characteristics cited by students suggests that schools should be comprehensive in addressing multiple aspects of their image when appealing to potential members. Various means were used to make potential members aware that schools had desired characteristics (RQ3). As noted, the outreach category that emerged from the coding of the second open-ended question accounted for the majority of the responses (70.2%) and reected multiple practices through which students were made aware of the characteristics they desired. Among others these included tours, open houses, campus visits, marketing via mail and the Internet, presentations, publications, and word of mouth. Among the Likertscale responses, tours/open house ranked highest among interpersonal resources and third overall among all variables in frequency (86.5%, M 5.8, SD 1.20), suggesting that visiting the school in person is an important means through which students gather information. In summary, these analyses found that characteristics directly associated with schools, such as programs, location, cost, tours/open house, and others, were most inuential to students when making decisions about colleges. Both the Likert-item and open-ended responses supported these ndings. This was perhaps best supported by the number of students (60%) who independently stated that a schools atmosphere or environment, that is something they found desirable when visiting the campus, would be the determining factor in their decision to pursue a college. This suggests that potential students seek both concrete and abstract qualities about a school when making decisions about whether or not to afliate (RQ2). Both interpersonal and informational resources were found to be inuential in students decision-making as well (RQ1). Interpersonal sources inuenced potential members, though to a lesser degree overall than did school characteristics. Tours/open houses, teachers, and interviews at the school were the most inuential characteristics in this category. Informational resources, such as materials requested by potential members, were somewhat inuential. Other informational resources that inuenced potential students included third-party sources such as college guides or magazine rankings. These sources were also among the means used by schools to make students aware of the characteristics they possessed (RQ3). Outreach by schools, including both interpersonal and informational efforts, was cited by 70% of students responding to a question asking why they would attend a certain college. This suggests that efforts made by schools are both necessary as


A.M. Pampaloni

well as instrumental in inuencing a students ultimate decision on whether to apply to a school. Discussion As organizations, including institutions of higher education, and their membership continue to evolve, scholars must likewise reconsider how we think about them (Cheney & Christensen, 2001; Gioia et al., 2000). This study attempts to contribute to our understanding of the characteristics of organizational image that inuence the decision-making of potential members. First, similarities among characteristics of college-seeking students are reviewed. Next, the importance of direct contact with a school is noted. Finally, the inuence of specic attributes, including institutional characteristics, interpersonal sources, and informational resources as well as intangible factors are discussed. Consistency of members Perhaps the most consistent nding of this study is that college-bound students are a uniform group. Regardless of demographic factors, no specic type of student emerged from these analyses. Although a few institutional characteristics were more signicant to students overall, most students indicated some level of interest about a wide range of school attributes. It appears that gaining information about multiple aspects about colleges is an integral part of their decision-making process. Attempting to fulll the need for knowledge about such a broad range of concerns could complicate an already stressful decision-making period for the student. Indeed, students who commented on the decision-making process noted that it was a long, tedious, stressful procedure and the hardest and most stressful process. Given the magnitude of the decision and the potential long-term benets and risks (Anctil, 2008; Moogan, Baron, & Harris, 1999), there is little wonder that the process can be overwhelming. From the schools perspective, adequately and effectively addressing the many and diverse concerns of potential members adds to the difculty of creating a unied image. To benet both groups, schools would do well to be comprehensive in addressing their multiple attributes. Providing at least a thumbnail view on a variety of topics allows schools to highlight key areas that both address student concerns and offer insights into the school. For the student, coverage of a broad range of topics might help ll informational gaps, thereby providing the necessary resources for making a decision. Seeing is believing One way students narrowed their college choices was to visit schools personally. Students perceptions after physically visiting a school weighed heavily in the decision-making process. As one respondent said students wanted a

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sense of what the school represents, literally and symbolically, more so than hearing what others have to say about it. Students identied open houses or tours (86%) as the third most inuential factor in their decision-making process, after programs and location. Students believe that at open houses you can tell a lot of things about the school and they allow students to see the school for [their] own eyes. They also found that visiting campuses allowed them to see the way [schools] present themselves and helped the students to answer questions such as Am I welcome? Would I t in? Open houses offer multiple opportunities for schools to communicate a positive image (Fischbach, 2006). Interviews at the school (72%) were also considered important to many students. Students use open houses and on-site visits to determine if a school is one they want or do not want to attend (Anctil, 2008; McAllister-Spooner, 2008; McAllister & Taylor, 2007; Moogan et al., 1999). For many, seeing a school rsthand provides them with the information they feel they need to make a decision about a school. As summarized by a students response, Visiting a college tells me more than most pamphlets or booklets could ever tell me. Due to time and nancial restraints it may be difcult for students (and parents) to visit each of the schools to which they would like to apply. This may contribute to the reason why the majority of students (88.2% nationwide) remain in state to attend college (US Department of Education, 2000). Advances in technologies that provide more detailed graphic representations of the physical attributes of the school may be an option for schools that would like to encourage out-of-state enrollment. Still, schools should be mindful that personally seeing and experiencing the campus, including physical as well as academic and social aspects, inuences many aspects of student decision-making. Frequent evaluation of open house programs should be undertaken by schools to ensure they offer appropriate opportunities for potential members to experience many different aspects of the campus and its offerings. Presenting a desirable image to potential members can also serve as an initial step to anticipatory socialization (Jablin, 1987). Thus open houses offer a potential benet to schools because socialization experiences inuence information and feedback-seeking behaviors (Mignerey, Rubin, & Gorden, 1995). For students deciding among several options, a positive campus experience can lead to continued contact with the school and perhaps future enrollment. Institutional aspects versus secondary sources of information As noted, characteristics associated with schools appeared more inuential than did the sources of information. However, both interpersonal and informational sources contributed to the decision-making process. Students were more likely to respond to information they found on their own, through Web sites (74%) or materials that they requested (69%) rather than material that was arbitrarily sent to them (44%). This was reinforced by responses to a write-in question asking


A.M. Pampaloni

about additional resources used to gather information about college. Of the 13 responses (43%) that identied informational sources, the majority (12) reected efforts they had undertaken through use of the Internet or use of college guides. This supports research that found materials sent by schools have little inuence on students college selection process (Hossler et al., 1999). The level of effort put forth by potential members suggests a willingness and desire to gain a comprehensive overview of several schools in order to be well-informed in their decision-making. This, again, reinforces the potential benet to schools in hosting open house events to both showcase the physical attributes of their campus and to address the students many concerns. Of the three overarching categories school characteristics, informational resources, and interpersonal sources the latter category was least inuential overall. Indeed the category receiving the lowest ranking overall by a distinct margin (9.3%) was an interpersonal source (clergy). Among other interpersonal sources, this study found that teachers were most inuential. While this supports some previous research (Helwig, 2004; Moogan et al., 1999), it contradicts a preponderance of research that suggests that parents are most inuential (Cabrera & LaNasa, 2000; Hossler et al., 1999; Ketterson & Bluestein, 1997; Otto, 2000; Paulsen, 1990; Sachs, 2002; Scott & Daniel, 2001). A possible explanation for this is that parents were not identied as a separate survey item. Instead, a broader category labeled family member/friend was offered. Separating these categories or identifying parents as an option distinct from other family members may have yielded different results. Another consideration is that parents ideas and expectations about what schools their child should attend can cause stress for their children, as does the inuence they hold over them (Broekemier & Hodge, 2008). Beyond those who are well-known to students such as parents and teachers, respondents also noted the inuence of people afliated with the schools that they visited. Prospective students indicated that the people already there and the students who either went here or are still here let them know that the school may be somewhere they might attend. This supports the ndings of Capraro, Patrick, and Wilson (2004) whose study on social life at colleges indicates that there is a positive relationship between attractiveness of social life at a school, which includes people that youd t in with or hang out with (p. 98) and likelihood to undertake decision approach actions (i.e., request information, visit, or apply) toward that school. Despite evidence indicating that measurable factors contribute to the decisionmaking process, many students made their nal decision based on much less tangible factors. The inuence of these indenable aspects is discussed next. Intangible inuences: the It factor Although students clearly identied institutional characteristics as important to their selection process, the more ambiguous aspects of school were equally

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relevant to their decisions. Almost 60% of students identied the atmosphere of the school as the reason they would ultimately decide to attend. They chose schools because it feels right or comfortable, or [the student] really liked something about it, or because its where [the students] feel at home for all the right reasons. Students want to feel like [they] belong at the school or that its where [theyre] supposed to be. Perhaps one students view best captures the essence of the it factor: I fell in love with it and cant wait to begin. Thus, while students are condent that they will know what they want when they see it or feel it, there was a lack of clarity about what it is. This reinforces the need for organizations to provide a complete and accurate picture of what they are, both in their materials and during campus visits (Cable, AimanSmith, Mulvey, & Edwards, 2000). As Anctil (2008) describes, schools need to make the intangible tangible (p. 32). Although achieving a balance between accuracy and desirability of image may be difcult, doing so provides students with a more informed view of the school.

Conclusion This study provides a clearer picture of the characteristics that potential members seek when deciding if afliation with a specic college or university is desirable. Respondents seek a broad range of information to inform them about the attributes of selected schools. This suggests that schools provide at least minimal information on a host of subjects. One way of doing so is for schools to recognize the inuence of direct contact with the school via tours, open houses, or on-campus interviews. As such, these provide excellent opportunities for schools to highlight their strengths and address student concerns. Furthermore, because potential members are often unable to articulate the specic qualities that appeal to them, personal visits offer an opportunity for students to identify or experience characteristics specic to each school. This may help them narrow their decision. Ultimately schools benet even if a student decides not to apply, because students who decide not to attend may be students who would eventually transfer or leave due to some type of incompatibility.

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Appendix 1

Organizational image survey

Organizational image: factors inuencing student decision-making 1. What are three things that would make you choose a certain college?

2. What do colleges do to let you know that they are the kind of school that you want to go to?

3. Realistically, what school (or type of school) do you think you will attend and why?

4. Please nish this sentence: When I nally select a college to attend it will be because. . .

5. Please rate the following characteristics that may inuence your decision to apply (or not to apply) to a college 1 strongly disagree; 2 disagree; 3 somewhat disagree; 4 neutral; 5 agree somewhat; 6 agree; 7 strongly agree

5a. Is there something else that you look for in a school that is not included in the list?


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6. Please rate the following characteristics that may inuence your decision to apply (or not to apply) to a college 1 strongly disagree; 2 disagree; 3 somewhat disagree; 4 neutral; 5 agree somewhat; 6 agree; 7 strongly agree


Is there another source that you use to gather information about colleges that is not included on the list?

7. What else would you like to say about your college decision-making process that hasnt been asked? 8. When did you begin to plan to attend college? ____________ (month/year) 9. How many colleges have you visited? ____________

10. Do you have a computer at home? ____ Yes, everyone in my home shares a computer ____ Yes, I have my own computer ____ No, we do not have a home computer 11. How much access do you have to a computer? (at home, school, a friends house, the library, etc.) ____ A lot ____ Some ____ None 12. What year are you in high school? ____ Senior ____ Sophomore ____ Junior

13. What is your ethnic group? ____ African American/Black ____ Middle Eastern ____ Asian American/Pacic Islander ____ Native American/American Indian ____ Hispanic/Latin American ____ White ____ Other (please specify) ________________________ 14. Please identify the type of high school you attend and where it is located ____Public ____ Private State________ County____________

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Appendix 2 Emergent coding categories from survey analysis

Aid Indication of some form of funding nancial aid including scholarships, grants, money or reference to some other type of incentives. Cost Reference to expenses/costs (tuition, fees, housing). Campus Reference to physical campus (but NOT size or location), including appearance/attractiveness, architecture, buildings, dorms/housing, and/or safety; also, helpfulness/ friendliness/impressions of school representatives, including students, staff, administration (NOT faculty); also diversity. Atmosphere Reference to more social and/or amorphous elements of the school, i.e. the feel. Faculty Reference to faculty, teachers, professors. Career preparation References to opportunities to gain experience that will help students academically or in their future careers, including internships, co-ops, study abroad, job placement services, etc. Location Includes references to distance from students home, proximity to or identication of other points (cities, attractions), setting (rural/urban). Miscellaneous Responses that do not clearly t into another category. Organizations Identication of social groups, athletics teams and other types of (non-academic) school sponsored groups or activities. Outreach Interpersonal outreach by schools through various on and off campus efforts including open houses, colleges fairs, high school visits/fairs, personal visits, interviews. Academic Programs References to academic programs, majors/minors, available courses and specic program choices; also includes more general references to academics and/or the type of education (but NOT faculty), and/or an indication of preference or willingness to attend a school solely because student was accepted.


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Reputation Reference to schools status, prestige, quality (specic to schools, NOT programs), credentials, ranking. Size Reference to population of school, desire for small/large school, number of students, size of class, number of students per class, desire for small/large classes, and student/teacher ratio. Student research Attempts by students to proactively solicit information about a school. School type References to identiable characteristics associated with institutions of higher education by degree (community college, 4-year school, BA granting), general reference to focus (liberal arts, engineering, etc.), funding source (public, state, private), or specic mention of a school (by name).

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