Recruiting students to enrol at a particular institution is becoming a competitive and challenging process for higher education institutions. Therefore, institutions should create efficient and effective ways of providing relevant information to prospective students during their process of selecting an institution. The major communication channels that prospective students consult during their selection process, and the usefulness thereof for students, are important knowledge imperatives for higher education institutions. In this study, 12 different channels of communication, considered by students during a typical higher education institution selection process, were investigated. A non-probability convenience sample of 1 241 first-year students from six higher education institutions in South Africa was drawn. Findings suggest that female students attach a significantly higher value to nine of the 12 communication channels, compared to their male counterparts. There were also differences between the ethnic groups in terms of the usefulness of events on campus, high school teachers, open days and campus visits, as well as university publications. Higher education institutions can use the results to develop communication strategies that are more student oriented, in order to reinforce their image and to reach students more effectively through the appropriate communication channels.