In their study of how students select colleges, researchers Hossler and Gallagher developed a three-stage model of college choice:
- Predisposition Stage--Students look at their options, sort through influences, and begin to think more about their future and the role of post secondary education.
- Search Stage--Students explore colleges that look good to them. They frequently respond to the advice of friends, family, and school professionals. During this stage high school counselors and staff can help students sort through their attitudes, their goals, and the realities that will influence school choice.
- College Choice Stage--Students finalize college factors such as cost, location, accessibility, etc. They subsequently begin the application process and select the school they will attend.
According to the researchers, the momentum between the predisposition stage and the search stage is a process of discovery. Here students deelp a "college choice set"--a group of college attributes that are personally important to them. However, it is important to note that the discovery process that lead to this choice set may or may not be thorough, thoughtful , or even conscious. Too often "discovery" is muddled by unrealistic expectations, biases, or a lack of self-understanding. Indeed, it stand to reason that the more students understand about themselves as learners and what they want and why, the more likely their college choice sets will reflect thoughtful decision making. Certainly high school counselors and other school professionals are positioned to help students move meaningfully and systematically through this discovery process. College Grazing is a vital discovery tool. The thirteen Self-Discovery Surveys provide feedback encouraging students to think insightfully so that their college choice sets are thoughtfully generated.
Benefits. When you add College Grazing to your counseling program, our Self Discovery Surveys will ..
- Provide meaningful college planning activity for individuals, groups, or full classes
- Provide helpful feedback concerning student college concerns and preferences
- Allows students to work at their own pace (The Surveys are a great assignment to send home with students)
- Provides a powerful addition to your regularly scheduled college planning activities
- Offers a helpful tool that you can suggest to parents
Keep in mind that all the tools and resouces on College Grazing are free, easy-to-use, and fun to do.
Here's How School Professionals Can Use College Grazing
Although there are numerous strategies to use College Grazing effectively, the following is just one way to build College Grazing into your college planning program:
A. Freshman and Sophomore Years
You can use the Self-Discovery Surveys as a way of motivating freshman and sophomores to beging thinking seriously about their college planning. Emphasize the following:
- The Surveys reflect student thinking. There are no right or wrong answers.
- The Survey feedback is intended to be "thought stimulators" that will encourage addition personal reflection and inspire discussions with family, friends, and school staff.
Before students work on the Surveys, you may want to engage them with some of the following discussion questions:
- Why is it important to begin thinking about college now?
- How are college different?
- How is college planning a "discovery" process?
- What do we mean when we say that a college must be a good fit?
- Who should be involved as you begin your college planning?
- Why is college a personal choice?
- Why is it important to think about your own strengths as a student before you select a college?
After students complete the Surveys, have them divide into pairs or goups to discuss the following Reflection Questions:
- Was there anything in your Survey feedback that surprised you?
- Did you see any "trends" or patterns in your responses?
- What did you learn by doing the Surveys?
- At this stage in your college planning, can you identify some characteristics that you will want in your college selection?
- Are there some things from the Surveys that you will want to discuss with your parents? Why is it important to get your family involved in your college planning?
B. Junior and Senior Years
In their junior and senior years students will find the surveys will help them focus on specific school characteristics. Timing Survey work with college testing is a good motivator.
As you introduce the Surveys, highlight the notion that the Surveys are tools for personal reflection that will prompt them to clarify what they want and need in a college.
Divide the students into pairs or small groups and have them discuss the topics below:
- Make two columns, on headed "small college" and the other headed "large college/university." Identify some advantages of each.
- Discuss the importance of "knowing yourself" as a vital part of the college selection process.
- Explain what people mean when they talk about a "selective" school.
- Explan what people mean when they talk about a school's academic environment.
- Going to college is more that just attending classes. Clarify what this means.
- Explain what it means to "find a school that is a good fit."
- Why is it important to have clear college goals?
- Identify the influences that shape your college aspirations.
Below are some further things that you can ask students to do after they have worked through the Self-Discovery Surveys:
- Write three questions that you feel you should discuss with your parents.
- Identify three to five things that you found to be a little surprising.
- Draw three conclusions about your college selection preferences.
- Identify any attitude differences from your Surveys now and the Survey feedback whey you took them earlier.
- Write three questions that you want to ask your school counselor.
- Make a list of college search actions that you will want to do in the next few weeks.
 Hossler, D. & Gallagher, K.S. (1987). "Studying Students College Choice: A Three-Phase Model. College and University, 2(3), 207-221.