Factors Influencing the College Selection Process of Student-Athletes: Are Their Factors Similar to Non-Athletes

By Letawsky, Nicole R.; Schneider, Raymond G. et al. | College Student Journal, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Factors Influencing the College Selection Process of Student-Athletes: Are Their Factors Similar to Non-Athletes


Letawsky, Nicole R., Schneider, Raymond G., Pedersen, Paul M., Palmer, Carolyn J., College Student Journal


Recruitment is a vital component for any college or university. Recruiting top student-athletes is even more strategic due to the potential increase in undergraduate admissions and booster donations that a championship season may bring. While much research has been conducted related to the factors influencing the choice of college, there is limited research focusing on college choice factors of student-athletes. Additionally, a majority of the research focusing on college choice factors of student-athletes does not address those student-athletes at top Division I-A institutions. The present study sought to determine if the factors that influence the college choice of high level students-athletes was different than research results focusing on non-athletes. The findings of this study suggest that, although student-athletes have different factors that influence college choice, non-athletic related factors as just as important as athletic related factors. These findings are valuable to the successful recruitment of student-athletes and may mean the difference between successful and unseccessful athletic programs.

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The students entering institutions of higher education today are much different than those of previous generations (Abrahamson, 2000). Often called Generation Y, Baby Boomers II, and Millennials, this group has often been described as ambitious, precocious, stressed, wayward, and indifferent (Newton, 2000). Additionally, these people have been characterized as being exposed to greater "grown-up" activity and less experienced in exercising discipline and decision making (Newton, 2000). As this generation makes decisions about attending college, and ultimately what college to attend, they consider factors much differently than previous generations. It is imperative that those involved in the recruitment process understand both the factors that are most influential in selecting an institution and the methodology utilized by college bound students in their search process.

Previous studies have attempted to determine what factors have the greatest influence on students' college choice. Spies (1978) found that academic reputation of the institution was more important than financial considerations. More recently, Sevier (1993) studied college-bound high school juniors and reported that availability of desired major and total cost of attending college were the most important factors. Galotti and Mark (1994) noted that parents/guardians, friends, and guidance center materials were rated as most important in the college search process. Most recently, Hu and Hossler (2000) found that students were most influenced by family input and finance-related factors.

Intercollegiate Athletics

The transformation of college athletics over the past 30 years into a multi-billion dollar, internationally recognized business has changed the focus of intercollegiate athletic departments. Budget minded administrators have realized that a winning team can provide an effective means of advertising their institutions and securing much needed additional funding (Davies, 1994). Many Division I-A college basketball and football programs generate 20-to-30 million dollars annually in revenue (Fulks, 2000). Not surprisingly, success within an athletic department can positively impact the institution's overall reputation and ultimately lead to higher numbers and caliber of undergraduate applications. Over the past twenty years championship teams in football and basketball have led to increases in undergraduate admission applications for the years following the championship (Toma and Cross, 1998). In addition, winning teams bring notoriety, which allows greater selectivity in admissions but also stimulates booster donations to the athletic department and the university as a whole (Zimbalist, 1999).

With the impact winning athletic teams have on a university it is not surprising that the pressure to produce winning teams is enormous. …

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