How do I find research on strategies for recruiting students into undergraduate programs?

I am an assistant professor at a small comprehensive 4-year public institution. My department (chemistry) has implemented a new strategic plan. One of our principle action items involves recruiting more high school students to attend our institution with the intention in majoring in chemistry.

I know that research is conducted, probably at the institution level, on what recruitment strategies are successful in various disciplines. However, since my research background is in chemistry, I am not familiar with the resources to find this research.

I will start with this question: What journals and/or databases should I be reading and using? I know about the Chronicle of Higher Eduction. Which others are good resources?

Update: I would like to find relatively recent reports, preferably in peer-reviewed literature or published by not-for-profits. Strategies that use social media would be great. There is a nice study linked in Dan C.'s answer, but it is from April 2004, meaning the data likely predates Facebook.

  • 1
    Computer science has an organization called SIGCSE that focuses primarily on undergrad education (and recruitment): they have an annual conference where people talk about all kinds of strategies to recruit and retain students. Does chemistry have something similar ?
    – Suresh
    Jun 30, 2012 at 18:53
  • The American Chemical Society has a Division of Chemical Education. However, it focuses on all levels and definitely more on education than recruitment. I don't need answers that are restricted to the field of chemistry. Best practices in other fields can be adapted.
    – Ben Norris
    Jun 30, 2012 at 19:33
  • This question is perfect for this SE new site: undergraduates if you find it useful you can follow it and help us in spreading the word about it.
    – Daniele B
    Jan 21, 2013 at 11:01

2 Answers 2


There is a nice survey report online: "What Matters to Student Success", a report from the Government of Kentucky.

The work analyses the factors most crucial to student success in a college. It also discusses recruitment of students. For example,

Consumerism colors virtually all aspects of the college experience, with many colleges and universities “marketizing” their admissions approach to recruit the right “customers” — those who are best prepared for college and can pay their way (Fallows et al. 2003)

It does not exactly answer your question on strategies for selection, but gives some insight to what makes a successful student pool, for which admission process is one determinant.

I am sure the reference papers cited in the journal (and their citations) will assist you in an extensive literature survey.

For a relevant journal, I found this: Journal of College Admission. I do not know about the quality, but I was able to find this discussion (or thereabout) in a few papers herein.

  • The question was asking for resources, databases, and journals. Asking for strategies would be too localized to my institution. The report you link looks pretty good, and thank you for the link to the Journal of College Admission. It is published by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, so it looks like a good place to start.
    – Ben Norris
    Jul 7, 2012 at 1:38

Does this webpage have some of the information that you're looking for?


(I recommend the "Factors to enroll" report; it asks for a login, but you can continue as a guest.) Alternatively, you might also find the following pdf useful.


  • One big question the report answers is for current college students, what percent cared about each of the following in choosing a school: cost, financial aid, academic reputation, size of school, recommendation from family or friends, location, campus appearance, and personalized attention prior to enrolling. These factors are considered for various breakdowns of the student sample.
    – Dan C
    Jul 1, 2012 at 15:38
  • I will take a look at the items in your first link. I was hoping more for items published in peer-reviewed journals. Our recruiting budget is negligible, so I want to avoid paying for information collected by consultants.
    – Ben Norris
    Jul 1, 2012 at 23:49
  • The second link is a little dated. It's from April 2004, and while some of the general ideas seem good, all of the data was probably collected before Facebook existed (Launched Feb 4, 2004). I am on the lookout for something more recent. I will update my question to include a timeliness factor.
    – Ben Norris
    Jul 1, 2012 at 23:53
  • @BenNorris If you like the subject of the second link, but worry that it is dated, you may like another of the reports linked to on the first webpage. Check out "The Communication Expectations of College Bound High School Students" (again you'll be asked for a login, but can proceed as a guest). Interestingly, among 8 factors a college's facebook page ranked as least influential (by a wide margin) in whether students chose to apply to that college.
    – Dan C
    Jul 2, 2012 at 6:08
  • That is interesting. I wonder how influential Facebook is in finding schools. I'm not at one of the schools in my state. Making connections with potential students before they start narrowing their choices is important.
    – Ben Norris
    Jul 2, 2012 at 10:56

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