This paper considers some of the ways that schools play a role in shaping higher education (HE) decision-making. Through their everyday practices and processes, schools can carry hidden messages about progression to HE, including choice of university. The sorts of routine aspects of school life dealt with here include events and activities, interactions with teachers, as well as resources. The work of Basil Bernstein is particularly useful at elucidating the different kinds of messages about HE choice sent out by schools. By shining a light on the underlying structures of power and control, Bernstein's framework illuminates the mechanisms by which messages are sent out. To illustrate this, two case study schools (both based in the same urban locality in south Wales) are drawn upon here, purposefully selected on the basis of their variances in progression to HE and research-intensive universities. The implications of the role played by schools are discussed in the context of the prevailing inequalities in HE participation, rising tuition fees, and an increasingly uncertain graduate labour market.