Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 211–228

Understanding Choice Behaviours: Pathways from School to University with Changing Aspirations and Opportunities


DOI: 10.1023/B:SPOE.0000018560.99580.2a

Cite this article as:
Bornholt, L., Gientzotis, J. & Cooney, G. Social Psychology of Education (2004) 7: 211. doi:10.1023/B:SPOE.0000018560.99580.2a


A socio-ecological approach to explain choice behaviour highlights salient personal and social factors in the context of changing aspirations and opportunities. The population databases are five cohorts of all school leaver applicants for university places in a state of Australia and a survey for one cohort. Results highlight common behaviour patterns across cohorts, with diverse outcomes for specific social groups. Offers of university places relate course preferences and school achievement. In addition, decisions to apply, accept and enrol vary with social experience by socio-economic indicators, geographic location and school type. Student explanations for their decisions to defer or let the offer lapse entail particular social factors as well as personal factors of self concepts, interests and financial needs. Findings contribute to a better understanding of choice behaviour, with a general model of the personal and social factors that explain diverse pathways to higher education.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurel Bornholt
    • 1
  • Jill Gientzotis
    • 1
  • George Cooney
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Development and Learning, Building A35University of SydneySydneyAustralia