New Study Underscores Volatility of First Choice College

April 8th, 2015 by Rick Montgomery Leave a reply »

Many students enter the college selection process with, at a minimum, one or two colleges that are at the top of their list of preferred schools. It’s inevitable that some students will replace their initial first choice college with another institution they find more attractive during the course of their selection process. But how often does this happen?

More often than you think! Roughly 40% of students from the pools of public and private colleges swap out their former first choice school with another institution during their college selection process. This happens in about 25% of cases for prospective community college students.


What motivates students to change their minds? And, more importantly, what can you do about it?

As you probably suspected, one factor is cost. Among those students bound for four-year institutions, approximately half replace their first choice college for one that costs less.

The issue of affordability is a tough one to tackle as an admissions counselor. (We have previously addressed proven strategies for presenting your institution’s unique value proposition in a manner that will take you from “too expensive” to “totally worth it.” See here.)

However, there are times when it is not going to be within your power to make the cost of your college feasible for a student you would like to enroll and they will find a better financial fit elsewhere.

Here is the good news: You do have control over the factors that are influencing the remaining pool of students who are likely to make a change. In the soon-to-be-released study, The Excitement Factor!, which explores how students arrive at that decision point, we uncovered that half of students that change their minds, do so for one of two reasons:

  • Perception of better quality at another college
  • Greater excitement about attending another college

college choice change graphicYou can protect your school from losing prospective students by presenting your college’s value proposition in a powerful, highly-personalized way. You and your team have been working for months to create student excitement about your institution. Every promotional brochure, email, campus tour, press release, personal conversation, every single effort you have put forth to make your class, has been designed to emphasize your college’s unique attributes in a way that will spark the enthusiasm of your prospective students.
But, it you aren’t asking direct questions about how a student feels, how excited (or not) they are about your college, how they feel about your college and the others they are considering, you will not learn what you need to do to change false perceptions and generate the kind of excitement that will lead to enrollment.

We encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and ask questions of students and parents that you have never asked before. Don’t worry that those questions will be too intrusive. We have done years of research on this topic, talking with hundreds of thousands of college-bound students and their parents, and have never found these questions to be considered invasive. We do, however, hear frequent complaints from students that the counselor did not attempt to get to know them better.

Best strategy: Listen to what they say. Listen for how you can help them. Ask penetrating questions and your prospective students will know that you truly want to get to know them more as a person.

We help colleges and universities with their recruiting efforts every day, especially now during yield season. If we can help you, please let me know.

If you would like a copy of The Excitement Factor! as soon as it is released, you can CLICK HERE to send us an e-mail to put you on the distribution list.

Continue the conversation on Twitter @LongmireCo. For more information about Longmire and Company’s Interactive Counselor Training Program, click here. Be sure to Subscribe to Versions of Conversion today so you don’t miss any of this highly-valuable information.

RickMontgomery_100x100Rick Montgomery is as an Enrollment Strategist at Longmire and Company. With over 20 years in higher education marketing, he brings an innovative approach to helping colleges and universities meet their enrollment goals. Rick can be reached at 913/492.1265 x.708 or via email at

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