Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the decision-making process of students who decided to study for a foundation degree. Design/methodology/approach – The research involved interviewing 30 students who were on, or had recently completed, a business-related foundation degree. Findings – This study found that students were not adopting a rational/comprehensive approach when making the decision to study for a foundation degree. The students only utilised limited sources of information; they did not consider a range of different options; and they often relied on informally absorbed information and their intuition. This paper argues that these students need impartial “hot” sources of advice that are easy to access. The students should also be provided with the opportunity to critically evaluate their decision-making and should be encouraged to develop alternative, more comprehensive, approaches to decision-making. Originality/value – This paper sets out a novel approach to preparing students for making choices about higher education which involves focusing on the process of decision-making. It also argues against targeting support at working class students on the grounds that students from middle class backgrounds also exhibit a lack of understanding of higher education and flaws in the way they make decisions.