1. Empathize with prospective students journey in selecting a college or university.
  2. Understand memorable phases of the decision process. 
  3. Learn which data prospective college students considered when making their decision. 
  4. Identify common elements across users related to their decision process and/or timeline. 

Sample Script

“My name is Kyle Rezac-Dennis and I am a product designer that is currently woking on an application to help college students avoid the problem of regret when it comes to college choice. 

Data from Gallup indicates that about 1 in 4 college students regret their choice of institution by the time that they’re done with college. Another 1 in 4 regret their program of study within their college.  

Rather than ask you why you selected the institution that you currently attend, I want to learn the methods that you used to choose between institutions during your senior year of high school. This is absolutely not a test. There is nothing you can say that would be wrong. If any questions arise during the interview, feel free to ask. We can stop the interview at any point if you wish.”

  1. Describe the first time that you knew you were going college. 
  2. What resources did you use along the way to help you make your college decision— books, magazines, ranking sites,  guidance counselors, HS teachers, family members, friends, etc? 
  3. When you had a question about a prospective school or a program, what did you do? 
  4. Can you tell me about a time that you decided that you had “crossed a school off” your list? Did they do something? What changed? 
  5. Do you remember the first time that you thought you had made a decision but knew the decision wasn’t final? Tell me as much about that moment as you remember.
  6. Did you apply to colleges or universities that you didn’t visit? If so, how many? 
  7. Describe the relative importance to your decision making process of physical materials mailed to your house— i.e. flyers, acceptance letters, etc. 
  8. Did you decide on an institution before you decided on a major?
  9. When did you “declare”to family, friends and teachers?  Why then? 
  10. Did you ever get “cold feet” about your decision? 
  11. What was the worst part of selecting a school for you? 
  12. What was the best part of selecting a school? 
  13. In hindsight, what do you know nowthat you wish you would have known then? 

Summary and Learnings

  • Interviews included 3 people who are all current college students, each attended the same residential liberal arts college near Kansas City. 
  • All interviewees mentioned one really important human interaction in their admission process. In all cases, it was someone who convinced them that the school really cared about them personally. 
  • There seems to be unanimous agreement about the honeymoon stage— the decision is stressful, actually attending college is stressful— the time between when you make the decision and arrive on campus is not stressful. 
  • None of the college students that I interviewed had established frameworks for their decision making— all indicated finding information about colleges via word of mouth, Googling and skimming results. 
  • Everyone mentioned leaning on their parents for information or decision-making help, but all indicated that they knew the information that they received from their parents wasn’t necessarily the most reliable.