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Part 3: Higher Education Media: Decision Making and Research Process
We recently sat down with ten high school students from across the United States in an intimate focus group to discuss various topics related to COVID-19 and higher education media topics. You can watch the videos below!
Last roundtable, we discussed how COVID-19 has impacted the higher education plans of high school students. Much of the conversation focussed around their learning preferences and the pros/cons of virtual engagement. For those still in the early stages of Post-Secondary planning, there was optimism that things will return to normality before they make a decision, but also disappointment in missing early parts of the recruitment experience. For others who have already been accepted, there was apprehension towards how the future may play out as they begin this new chapter. Concerns related to limited work opportunities/financial planning and online learning were focal points.
While enrolment status varied among participants, the discussion around online learning yielded consistent feedback: physical settings are still preferred. Many described lower stress levels due to schedule flexibility during isolation, but made it clear that having access to the proper resources remains top priority. This also carried into the recruitment and decision making process.
This time, we focus on the Post- Secondary research and decision making processes common among high school students.
Our high school influencers were quick to rely on in-person resources when researching institutions. Campus tours were the first thing mentioned when asked, and identified as the primary factor used to examine a college or university. “I got really into the college selection process and something my parents really supported me on was going to visit places. I feel like that is how you can get a really good feel,” explained Courtney. “Physically visiting it is really important, if you’re going to spend that much time and money, I think you need to enjoy the environment,” agreed Camilla. Lena, a senior from Georgia with plans of pursuing a musical theatre career, also expressed the importance of visiting schools to assess the facilities. “It was a little different for me because I want to go into musical theatre so I looked at conservatories and which schools could offer the best program for that.”
Students were also fond of colleges sending reps to their high schools to share information and answer questions. “Every couple days our school would bring in representatives from colleges for us to talk to. I feel like that was one of my favourite things, I get mail/email from a bunch of colleges and I usually don’t look at them or worry about them but it was nice to have someone there that I could talk to and who could answer my questions. I would stop and talk to all the schools, even if I knew they didn’t have my major, maybe they had something else they could offer me,” said Natalie. The face-to-face interaction and interpersonal approach to recruitment was favoured by a strong majority of the students. Similar to their attitudes towards virtual learning, many of them preferred having the physical resources readily available to provide answers.
While visits and consultations got the most attention, institution websites and online resources were also mentioned as a building block in the decision process. As explained by Natalie, “ Something I did that didn’t involve physically being there was making a list of what was important to me and looking for places that offered that criteria.” Websites that showcase their unique characteristics, selling points and culture make it a lot easier for students to identify with and consider as a viable option. As Maddy also explained, it is a great planning resource to see what classes are required to qualify for specific programs. “I am still in the early stages but so far I have gone online a few times and looked at what classes I need to prep for next year.” Having representation in the right high schools, or organizing tours can prove challenging, specifically during COVID, but offeri
ng these insights online for interested parties to easily view is a simple, impactful step.
While physical interaction is still a vital way to market information and build relationships, influence from other mediums continues to grow. Next, we will discuss the relationship between high school students and the advertisements and content they interact with on a daily basis.