It’s no secret applying to college is a stressful time in both the applicants’ and parents’ lives. A recent report by The Princeton Review considered the perspectives of 12,225 people—with a 72/28% split between student and parent respondents—to understand what colleges they’re interested in and why they’re motivated to apply.
The “dream school”
Without taking acceptance or cost into consideration, students and parents were asked what their dream school would be. Here are the results:
Students and parents agreed on seven schools: MIT, Stanford, Harvard, NYU, UCLA, Princeton, and the University of Michigan.
Students seek career readiness, academics an afterthought
The academic reputation of a school and the education students would gain from a degree proved to be unpopular priorities for most students and parents.
More respondents chose a “College with the best program for my (my child’s) career interests” (38%) than they did a “College with the best academic reputation” (11%) for an institution they’d most likely select. Additionally, almost half of the respondents believed the biggest benefit of a college degree is the potential for a better job and income while only 23% chose its educational value.
Financing school is the top roadblock for applicants, parents
In 2003, 52% of respondents chose “Won’t get into first-choice college” as their biggest worry while 8% chose “Level of debt to pay for the degree.” Twenty years later, the respondents flipped the survey on its heads.
- 42% of respondents chose the answer “Level of debt to pay for the degree.”
- 27% worried that they “Will get into first-choice college but won’t be able to afford to attend.”
- Only 23% chose “Won’t get into first-choice college” as their top worry.
Similarly, 98% of respondents said financial aid will be necessary to support themselves or their child while 54% said the need would be “extremely likely.”
Access to scholarships and additional aid is one of the leading reasons students chose to take the SAT or ACT even though Ivy League schools and others no longer require standardized testing for admission consideration.
Read more on UB: Community college students hit an academic ceiling, report finds
Test-optional policies get mixed reviews
While access to scholarship money and other avenues of financial aid was the second-most quoted reason to take the SAT/ACT (33%), the leading reason was in hopes that standardized test scores could distinguish their application (43%).
Overall, schools’ test-optional policies aren’t creating such a hoopla. Nearly 70% of respondents reported that their policy didn’t affect their application decisions. However, 23% of respondents said they were more likely to apply to a test-optional college.
“Our hope is that all students bound for college can access resources to identify the school best for them, get accepted to it, get funding for it, and graduate to rewarding and successful careers,” said Rob Franek, editor-in-chief of The Princeton Review and director of the survey.