Making the college choice: a phenomenological study of high-ability engineering students of color
The purpose of this phenomenological study was to investigate and better understand the decision-making process and the factors high-ability students of color use in choosing a college at which to study engineering. Hossler and Gallagher's (1987) 3-phase model on college choice was explored to understand how the participants' college selection experiences relate to the model. Three in-depth interviews were conducted with students who attended an annual engineering recruitment program held at Iowa State University. The participants included 7 students from 6 different states: 5 African Americans, 2 Latinos; 3 females, 4 males; 4 Iowa State University students, 3 students attending other institutions that offer engineering. Four themes emerged from the data. College Choice Process: Universal yet Idiosyncratic; revealed that the students experienced a similar process when making their college choice; yet, the way in which they journeyed through this process was quite different. They ranged from one student's "iterative" process to another's simplistic process. Making and Maintaining a Connection focused on the importance of higher education institutions continuously communicating with prospective students. This communication often takes the form of promotional materials, Internet websites, and campus visits. College Choice: A Pragmatic, Independent Decision addressed the practical way students are making their college choice by considering cost/financial aid and location/proximity. Also highlighted was the independence the students reported having when making their college choice; free from the pressure of parents, guidance counselors, teachers, and friends. To Study AND To Play revealed the needs for schools to emphasize the quality of both their intellectual and social environments. The students want to attend an institution that offers a balance of both. Higher education institutions must be aware of their role in a student's college choice. They need to recognize the value of promotional materials they send to prospective students; provide information to students in a new, high-tech, easy to navigate fashion; acknowledge the importance of the campus visit; offer a competitive financial aid package; and highlight both the high-quality education and the social opportunities offered to students.