How Americans are approaching college selection

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    Many students cited size of a campus as a ‘very important’ factor when it came to college selection. (Shutterstock photo)

    Every year the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) conducts the CIRP Freshman Survey, a review of the nation’s entering students at       four-year colleges and universities. According to the most recent data from the questionnaire, and not surprisingly, the economy and school reputation, not school rankings, have the most prominent pull on college selection.

    Only 18.2 percent of polled students said national rankings were “very important” in final college selection, and of the 23 options offered, college rankings came in at number 12 in popularity. At the top of the list, just under the most important factor on college selection—academic reputation—the highest percent of students listed good post-graduation employment, financial assistance, and overall cost of tuition as deciding factors.

    “Students have figured out that increased lifetime earnings result from a college education,” Sylvia Hurtado, director of the Higher Education Research Institute, said in a statement. “It is important to continue to encourage a long-term view of the benefits of college in this recovering economy.”

    Other report findings on college selection, include:

    • 41.8 percent of students placed high importance on a campus visit
    • 40.2 percent looked at a college’s social circles
    • 38.8 percent considered the size of the campus
    • 32.8 percent felt history of student placement into graduate programs was important
    • 30.4 percent wanted to know the college’s rate of graduation
    • 20.1 percent considered college proximity to home
    • 15.1 percent stated their parents wanted them at that particular school

      college selection

      College selection is largely inluenced by reputation, financial assistance and post-graduation employment options. (Shutterstock photo)

    • 13.4 percent could not afford their first choice of college

    UCLA noted a number of positive trends have been discovered in the data. Support for same-sex marriage is at an all-time high according to the survey, and while a higher number of incoming students stated they felt overwhelmed, those students were more likely to communicate well with professors, seek counseling, get help through tutoring, and participate in school clubs and groups.

    College selection and graduation rates

    While the CIRP survey looked mainly at factors in college selection, it also explored student expectations.

    One question was how long students thought their graduation would take them. More than 80 percent stated they felt they would graduate from their college of choice in four years, though actual numbers, according to UCLA, indicate only about 40 percent of students actually hit that goal.

    “There is a large mismatch between students’ expectations and the reality of time to college completion,” said in the statement, John H. Pryor, lead author of the report and director of CIRP. “Given the increasing number of students concerned about college affordability and the significant cost of adding an extra year of college, students could benefit from a better understanding of individual college graduation rates.”

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