Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career, and Higher Education

Major Professor

Donald Dellow, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Alan Balfour, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James Eison, Ph.D.

Committee Member

W. Robert Sullins, Ed.D.


CIRP, College choice process, Financial aid, High academic achievement, Selectivity


Studies that have investigated college choice factors for high-achieving students repeatedly cite academic reputation as one of the top indicators of choice but have not indicated why some high-achieving students choose to attend universities with a less prestigious reputation than the more highly prestigious options available to them. The purpose of this study was to examine whether differences exist between traditional-aged high achieving students who choose to attend higher-tiered universities and their peers who choose to attend lower-tiered universities.

Independent variables were selected based upon Hossler and Gallagher's (1987) three-stage model and previous research findings in the literature and grouped according to: (1) students' individual and family characteristics, including ethnicity, gender, parents' education level, and family income; (2) institutional characteristics, including financial considerations and academic reputation; and (3) the influence of others, including parents, relatives, teachers and counselors.

The sample was drawn from the 97 universities which administered the CIRP Freshman Survey in 2004. Data were used for students who were attending their first choice college located more than 100 miles from home. Data were used from students who had received scores at or above 660 on the SAT Verbal, and scores at or above 670 on the SAT Math. For students who did not report scores for both SAT verbal and SAT math, the researcher accepted data from students reporting an ACT composite score of 30 or higher. In addition, in order for their data to be used, students were required to have an A or A+ average in high school.

Results were reported as (1) frequencies and descriptive statistics, (2) a correlation matrix, and (3) multiple regression models. The study found the availability of financial aid to be the most important factor in predicting whether students will attend a higher-tiered or lower-tiered university. Although college costs and academic reputation were found to be significant predictors of the tier level of university attended, they were of secondary importance compared with the attention to financial aid by high achieving students.