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What We Can Learn from The Princeton Review’s 2015 “Dream College” Survey

by Jocelyn Johnson, on Apr 3, 2015 1:03:00 PM

“What’s your dream college?” According to a recent Princeton Review survey, if you ask a college bound senior or their parent, chances are the answer you’ll hear is Stanford or Harvard. Every year The Princeton Review conducts a survey of college applicants and their parents to assess the hopes and worries of applying to college. Beyond the top 10 Dream Colleges list, there is much to learn from the 2015 survey results. Let’s take a closer look at some of the questions, their results, and what college bound families can learn.

Q: How many colleges will you (your child) apply to?

Survey result: 69% of respondents planned to apply to 5 or more colleges. 25% of parents and students planned to apply to 9 or more.

What we can learn: Fearing low admission rates, students are applying to more colleges than ever before, which further drives down acceptance rates. The statistic students should pay attention to is 80% of top students get into elite colleges. Build your college list strategically, but only apply to schools you would actually attend. Also, the average application fee was $41 in 2014, so if you’re planning to apply to over 10 schools, make sure you budget accordingly.

Q: What is/will be the toughest part of you (your child’s) college application experience?

Survey result: 34% of respondents anticipated standardized testing would be the most challenging, and 33% thought it would be completing applications for admission or financial aid.

What we can learn: Preparation is key. Use standardized test prep resources like Kahn Academy, Kaplan, or Grockit to prepare for the SAT or ACT and improve your test scores. Register for the Common App and familiarize yourself with the different sections. Build the foundation for your personal statement and supplement essays before it’s time to apply. The college application process is like a sport--the harder you train during the off-season, the better shape you’ll be in when the season starts.

Q: How would you gauge your stress level about the college application process?

Survey result: 73% of respondents gauged their stress level about the college application process as very high or high.

What we can learn: The college application process is stressful, but there are things you can start doing now to relieve some of the pressure. Students: take control of your own application process. Kick off your process with these 10 steps.  Parents: empower your child to own his or her application process. Learn how to ask questions, then listen instead of taking over.

Q: How necessary will financial aid be to pay for your (your child’s) college education?

Survey result: 66% of respondents said financial aid (education loans, scholarships, or grants) would be extremely necessary. 24% reported it would be very necessary. (Combined that’s 90% of respondents that indicated financial aid would be very or extremely necessary).

What we can learn: Apply for scholarships and grants early and often throughout your high school and college career. If you are a first-generation college or underrepresented student, check out college access programs like the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation or Questbridge for scholarship resources as well as additional college guidance. In January, or after you’ve finished submitting your applications, set a make or break amount for your family contribution at each school. Save this list (preferably as a PDF or other unchangeable format) so you can refer to it in the spring once you’ve received your admission letters.

Q: Overall, you you believe college will be “worth it” for you/your child?

Survey result: 99% answered yes.  

What we can learn: Through every challenge and obstacle you face in the college application process or as a college student, remember that it will all be worth it. To echo Frank Bruni, when it comes to college, it’s not where you go, but who you’ll be that matters the most.

Topics:college admission