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The Power of Social Influence: Students’ Choice of Higher Education: the Case of Brăila, Romania
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education, Institute of International Education.
2015 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 80 credits / 120 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

In a fast paced, modern world, with massive volumes of information circulating across mass media and the internet, real time communication through social media allowing for continuous contact and increased peer influence, in a world of high diversity and competition between the best products and the best services, it becomes more and more difficult to make a choice. The pressure of variety and emerging information flows makes any decision process challenging in all areas of human existence: choosing the best job, the best employer, leading the best possible life.

People are faced with the uncertainty of choice from their early years, but the first important step they have to make when entering the adult world is deciding upon their education. Every year high school graduates are troubled with choosing their future studies. Education has a major impact on individuals’ future career, the opportunities they later encounter in life, the people they meet and their personal development.  In their turn, educational institutions are well aware of the challenge this decision process implies. They try to market themselves and attract students, contributing thus to the increased volume of information and the difficulty of selection.

This research takes a close look at what influences students in their choice of post-secondary education. What are the main characteristics of the decision making process? Since it involves many different influences, how do family and friends impact the choice? What is the influence of the mass media? Which are the information sources students rely mostly on? A quantitative approach has been used to explore the influence of external social factors. The study investigates the post-secondary educational choices of 213 high school students, selected from two different high schools in Brăila, Romania. The selection of participants was based on the performance of the high school in the previous years, one of them being considered a top performing high school and the other one a low performing one. From these two high schools, two Humanistic profile classes and two Mathematics/Science classes were randomly selected per high school, thus covering a large number of students with different interests, competencies, performance records, but also socio-economic backgrounds. The data was collected using a self-administered questionnaire and analyzed by means of correlations and distribution, percentages and means.

The findings of the research revealed that students value the opinion of their parents, respect the choices the latter made in terms of their own education and ask for parents’ advice whenever needed. They also follow closely their friends, analyze their decisions and take them into consideration when making their own choice. Nevertheless, the data collected in the study proved that family and friends taken as separate influencers do not have a very high impact on the choice of an education. When taken together though, they do represent a significant, strong force, stirring almost half of students’ decisions. The media proved also to be an important influence and source of information, with the internet leading among student preferences and also being ranked as the most reliable source out of all considered media channels.

The study provides important data that facilitates an increased understanding of the selection process and supportive information for those who assist and can guide students through the process. The findings are relevant for both the students themselves, their families and friends, but also for high school management and personnel, teachers, educational planners and study counsellors, as well as universities and higher education institutions that can use the data to improve their marketing strategy and communication with potential candidates, all of the mentioned parties facilitating thus an informed, objective and rational decision making process. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. , 77 p.
Keyword [en]
post-secondary education, choice, influencers, family, friends, media
National Category
Educational Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-118748OAI: diva2:827462
Available from: 2015-06-29 Created: 2015-06-27 Last updated: 2015-06-29Bibliographically approved

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