Information behavior in the online college search process
: maximization tendency, self-efficacy, and digital media usage

  • Tracy Buss

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


Prospective college students are faced with a multitude of information sources when conducting their college search, especially with the advent of social media and other digital media. Schwartz et al. (2002; 2004) propose that an abundance of choice makes decision making more difficult, especially for those who can be considered ‘maximizers.’ Maximizers seek ‘the best’ and this aspiration is reflected in their individual decision making style, which leads them to seek out more options before making decisions, as opposed to ‘satisficers,’ who are content with ‘good enough.’This mixed-methods study unpacks the information behavior of high school students as they conduct their college search, examining their preferred media sources and their behavior engaging with these sources. Maximization tendency is hypothesized to impact how they conduct their search. Self-efficacy in online college search is introduced as a variable to explain how students engage with media. Theory on the ‘paradox of richness’ or level of media social presence (Robert and Dennis 2005) also informs the analysis by recognizing the complexity of the interaction between the medium, the message, and the recipient.The findings of this study support the view that maximization tendency influences college search information behavior. While self-efficacy does not appear to correlate with maximization tendency, it does provide insight into other aspects of college search. This study also makes a context-based contribution by exploring conditions and boundaries of maximization theory in relation to college search. Further, it provides guidance for higher education digital media strategy, backed by empirical data. Finally, this research adds to and refines the body of theoretical and practical literature on higher education marketing, a field of inquiry that has been relatively neglected by marketing researchers.
Date of Award27 Jun 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorChristopher Archer-Brown (Supervisor) & Robin Shields (Supervisor)


  • information behavior
  • decision making
  • college choice
  • self-efficacy
  • media choice
  • higher education marketing
  • maximizing
  • online behaviour

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