Stanford remains #1 ‘dream school’ for many college applicants

April 19, 2018

For many young people, the college admissions process represents the first real measure of whether they have what it takes to make it in this world. In fact, right now, more than 3 million high school seniors and their parents are in academic purgatory, as they await college admission and financial award offers.

Based on findings of the The Princeton Review’s 2018 College Hopes & Worries Survey of 10,958 people nationwide— 85% of them, college applicants; 15%, parents of applicants—anxiety levels about the admission process are in line with those assessed over the past 15 years of the study. Both students (74%) and their parents (69%) reported high levels of anxiety.

The rising cost of college may well have contributed to parents’ and students’ college application stress: 99% of the respondents this year said financial aid would be necessary to pay for college, while 65% deemed such funding “extremely necessary.”

For the sixth consecutive year, Stanford University is the institution that both applicants and parents have named as their “dream” school. Among students, Harvard University was is second choice; and among parents,  MIT came in just below Stanford.

Specifically, the top ten colleges that students  have identified as their “dream schools” are:

  1. Stanford University
  2. Harvard College
  3. New York University
  4. Princeton University
  5. University of California—Los Angeles
  6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  7. Columbia University
  8. Yale University
  9. University of California—Berkeley
  10. University of Southern California

The colleges  that parents see as  dream schools for their children include:

  1. Stanford University
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. Princeton University
  4. Harvard College
  5. Yale University
  6. Brown University
  7. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
  8. University of Pennsylvania
  9. Columbia University
  10. Cornell University

The survey also found that priorities have shifted in the past few years. In 2005, more than 50% of students and parents focused on the best overall college fit when choosing an undergraduate program and less than 25% emphasized career; while, in 2018, career interests have become a much higher priority (42% of students and 41% of parents).

In addition, distance is an important factor in making a college choice. Fully 50% of parents would like their child to attend a college less than 250 miles from home, while 67% of students said they would like to attend a college more than 250 miles from home.

Asked which part of the application process was the toughest, 35% (the plurality) chose the answer, “Completing applications for admission and financial aid,” while 32% of respondents chose the answer, “Taking the SAT, ACT, or AP exams,” as the toughest part of the process for them.

Finally, both students and parents feel great about the value of a college education, with 99% saying that college will be worth the investment for them/their child.

Research contact: Amy.Briskin@gmail.com

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