Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine university applicants' choice processes using Kotler's five stage consumer buying process with a particular emphasis on the final stage of the process namely that of the purchase decision. Design/methodology/approach: Based on four focus groups with 22 students at one university in North-west England, post-enrolment. Findings: Applicants' choice processes are complex and not evenly supported by university departments. Using concepts from the field of services marketing, the student choice process as candidates progress through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service system is critically interrogated. "Moments of truth" are seen to be critical in many students' decision to choose a specific university course. University personnel need to be mindful that the decision process is two way and takes place over an extended period of time. Research limitations/implications: This research has been conducted with respondents drawn from just one university and at one point in time. Practical implications: It is suggested that universities should refine and target their communications efforts, and pay close attention to the quality of the interactions with potential students throughout their relationship. In order to do this it is suggested that universities adopt a services marketing framework. Originality/value: Key themes from services marketing concepts are suggested to inform the analysis of what is and what could be done to maintain and enhance the university-applicant relationship as it progresses.