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Evaluating Advice in a Matching Mechanism with Experienced Participants: An Experimental Study of University Applicant Behaviour in Australia

Pablo Guillen, Onur Kesten, Alexander Kiefer and Mark Melatos ()

No 2020-13, Working Papers from University of Sydney, School of Economics

Abstract: The majority of undergraduate university applications in the state of New South Wales – Australia’s largest state – are processed by a clearinghouse, the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC). Applicants submit an ordered list of course preferences to UAC which applies a matching algorithm to allocate university places to eligible applicants. The algorithm incorporates the possibility of a type of “early action” through which applicants receive guaranteed enrolments. Applicants receive advice on how to construct their course preference list from multiple sources (including individual universities). This advice is often confusing, inconsistent with official UAC advice or simply misleading. To investigate the implications, we run an experiment in a choice environment that mimics the UAC application process and in which truth telling is a dominant strategy. We vary the advice received across treatments: no advice, UAC advice only, (inaccurate) university advice only, and both UAC and university advice together. Overall, 75.5% of participants fail to use the dominant strategy. High rates of applicant manipulation persist even when applicants are provided with accurate UAC advice. We find that students who attend non-selective government schools are more prone to use strictly dominated strategies than those who attend academically selective government schools and private schools.

Date: 2020-11
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-des and nep-exp
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