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Information Sources in Undergraduate Student Choice Decision

Forsyth and Furlong (2003) found information was critical to the choice decision, but emphasized that the complex body of information can also deter young people from applying to university. This implies that the quality of the information provided for the students are critical in affecting their undergraduate students’ choice. Meanwhile, the provision of quality information also helps to reduce non-completion by ensuring a better connect between student and institution courses (Briggs, 2007). Since most of the students have no experience of the quality of the academic experience, hence the sources of information from each perspective is crucial in helping them to determine undergraduate student’s choice decision.

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Based on this research, the scope of respondents-students taking UEBE2853 Quantitative Analysis and Operational Research in January 2015 Semester were asked to score the importance of sources of information to ascertain the main pathways through which information was received. A series of questions were questioned to these respondents to see how this information affects their choice decision. After thorough analysis, it can be proved that the information sources were obtained from these 4 factors, they are careers factor, university-related factor, another publicity factor and personal contact factor.

Careers Factor

In careers factor, the experiences from those who are working at the current society are the most reliable information sources that the respondents can obtained (Anorjan, 2013). These experts’ feedbacks are crucial to the respondents and yet, they help to simplify the choosing process for the respondents (Briggs, 2007). Therefore, majority of the respondents obtained the information in choosing Bachelor of Science (Hons) Quantity Surveying in University Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) is based on this factor. Meanwhile, careers teachers, careers service and career convention are the crucial information sources they received from this factor.

  • Careers Teachers

Teachers are the one who guide the respondents and the respondents spend most of the time with during school time. Indeed, the students might gain trustworthy to their teacher throughout the teaching process. These career teachers also include counselors in the university. These counselors will give proper advice to the students on suitability of certain undergraduate course to them. Based on a research by Lichtenstein (2014), it is believed that teachers do influence at least some of the students in choosing their undergraduate courses. Meanwhile, careers teachers influence varies based on students’ intellectual proclivities, motivation for college, classes they enrolled in and proximity of students to their senior year (Indianapolis, 2014).

  • Careers Service

Career service, also known as career center, is an on-campus career development service provided by universities to allow students to determine the types of careers suitable for them (University of Victoria, 2014). In this service, the counselor will use different self-assessment tool to examine the respondents’ personality, abilities and interest subsequently helps the respondents to decide what academic major will help them to meet their goals (McKay, 2015). They also provide students with beneficial information when choosing an academic course and university which outlines subject details and comparative course structures.

  • Careers Convention

Careers convention is an annual event where employers, businesses and training providers come to talk to students and their parents about their particular career area (James, 2010). Through this careers convention, these respondents are able to further explore on their chosen career area and explore different options and career paths in their interest field (North Dakota State University, 2007). This can be done by speaking directly with a representative from that area like lecturers and seniors who undertaking Bachelor of Science (Hons) Quantity Surveying in UTAR so that more reliable information can be obtained.

University-related Publicity Factor

University-related publicity factor is the way the university advertise itself to the public. It is important for a university to have a solid reputation and a positive image so that the respondents are more likely to choose that particular university (Friedman, 2012). Based on the information obtained, prospectus and university open day were the two information sources respondents obtained from this factor.

  • Prospectus

Prospectus is a document sent to potential students to attract them to apply for admissions to the university. It contains information about the institution, all the available courses, the staffs, notable alumni, special facilities in the campus and so on. Peppiatt (2007) in her research work on the principals’ messages professed that the prospectus is an effective mode of discourse as it endues the reader with information about the institution and increases the scope of contest among educational institutions. Meanwhile, it also includes advice on how to apply and the benefits of accepting a place in the university. Many universities usually have individual prospectus for group of courses of each course they offered. Meanwhile, there are both online and paper versions of the prospectus. McGregor (2014) says, ‘It’s an official source and has got things in it that you can’t get from word of mouth.’ Thus, as UTAR applies this system to those respondents to attract them, it persuades these respondents to take their desired course-Bachelor of Science (Hons) Quantity Surveying in this university.

  • University Open Day

University open days are very important sources for us to determine which course and university to study (Clare, 2013). UTAR also provides open day for students to visit every year. This not just allow students to choose the right course that suits them, they can also explore the facilities offered to them in the university as Absher & Crawford (1996) states that ‘educational facilities such as classrooms, laboratories and libraries are important in students’ selection in undergraduate choice.’ Besides that, they can have the opportunity to speak to the lecturers and students to have a better understanding of the course and university (University of West London, 2015). Yet, they can also figure out about the accommodation costs, and scholarships to help ease the financial burden. Thus, university open day is often one of the best recruiting tools.

Another Publicity Factor

Another publicity factor is also one of the factors that influence the respondents in their undergraduate choice decision. Another publicity factor is the first image that came into the students mind and gives the students a simple idea about the courses related with universities. These marketing strategies need to be adopted to better inform undergraduate students’ choice (Briggs, 2007). Meanwhile, newspaper features, university website and league tables are the three information sources that come from this factor.

  • Newspaper Features

Newspaper is the most common way of conveying information to the public (John, 2014). Meanwhile, advertisement through newspaper provides students with a general view of the university (Dawin, 2012). For instance, UTAR will advertise the date of open day through The Star paper so that anyone interested gets to visit the university at the proper time. Meanwhile, this system also helps to acknowledge those who do not know the existence of this university to gain a wider view on this university.

  • University Website

A recent study by Tucciarone (2009) found that students rely on information from college websites in evaluating the institution. University website is utmost important information sources for respondents to acquire detail information about the university. This website also provides all useful information that cannot be obtain from other sources (Schimmel, 2009). For instance, we can see that from UTAR website, it provides lots of useful information on all the courses available, pre-requisites for certain courses, staff directory, scholarships available, the courses that accredited by Malaysia’s Board and activities ongoing in the university. This indirectly allows the respondents to gain more confidence in choosing Bachelor of Science (Hons) Quantity Surveying in UTAR.

  • League Tables

For a truly rounded view, league table rankings should be used as one of the source of information when searching universities. As such, league tables show the rankings according to different criteria and weighting among different universities (Sharp, 2015). This ranking information was strategically focused and selective for the respondents. The criteria included in the league tables may be calculated from student satisfaction scores, student to staff ratio, entry grades and so on (MacLeod, 2009). This allows the students to have a better view in choosing their ideal university.

Personal Contact Factor

Personal contact factor is where the students consider info from other person’s opinions when selecting their undergraduate choice decision. Based on this research, this factor appeared is mainly due to peer influence and word of mouth. However, based on the research done by Senga Briggs (2007), respondents obtained the least information from personal contact factor compared with other factors.

  • Peer Influence

Information from peer may seems to be convincing to the students as they know each other well and information from a friend with direct experiences is much better (IDEA, 2012). Analysis of the interviews shows that peer groups can influence students’ choices by way of three major influencing types: information, competition and persuasion (Pimpa, 2002). This means that peer may influence the respondents in terms of information they obtained and persuade them on the courses that they think are better so that they are more competitive in achieving success. This is also one of the information may obtained by the respondent in choosing suitable undergraduate course.

  1. Word of Mouth

Word of mouth can also be one of the information sources as respondents have no experience of the quality of the academic experience (Briggs, 2007). Thus, respondents may obtain relevant information when communicating with their parents, relatives and experiences personnel and take into consideration of their opinion when making the undergraduate choice decision (Soutar, 2002). Some parents influence their children by telling them overseas education us better than local education, some vice versa (Mazzarol, 2002). This indirectly causes the students have initial perception on these universities. However, as UTAR generally has a positive image for the students, it cause the respondents to consider to choose UTAR and Quantity Surveying course as it is registered by the Board of Quantity Surveyors of Malaysia.. Thus, although respondents may consider the information from this source, but it is slightly lesser compared to other sources.

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