Surprising Findings in the 'College Hopes and Worries' Survey

Jun 17, 2011

The Princeton Review, a decades-old source for college information and test preparation services, published its 2011 'College Hopes and Worries' survey. Some findings were not so surprising, such as the stress associated with the college applications process, but others were quite compelling. What's on the minds of college applicants and their parents? Read on to find out.

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By Erin Tigro


Since 2003, the Princeton Review has been asking a series of questions to first-time college applicants and parents of impending freshmen. This year, the organization polled over 8,000 applicants and nearly 4,000 parents throughout the nation, in various U.S. territories and several other countries. Questions were primarily multiple-choice with a couple of fill-in-the-blanks.

Preparation and Application

When asked what the most difficult part of the college application process is, two answers received the most hits. The undertaking of advanced placement and standard admissions tests was the top choice, receiving 28% of all votes. Of all respondents, 27% indicated that applying for financial assistance and completing general application packets was the most challenging aspect. Surveyed individuals noted that the most helpful information during the application process was knowing a college's average SAT scores for the previous year's admitted freshmen.

Environmental Considerations

From 'somewhat' to 'strongly,' nearly 70% of students indicated that if they had information about a college's environmental initiatives and related academic programs, this would likely influence their decision making. Only 31% of students indicated that this factor would not influence their decision by much or in any respect. Though not as significant a factor for parents, over half of those who were polled agreed with the majority of students.

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Money Matters

We all know that the price to attend college isn't cheap, and the Princeton Review attached a figure to this assumption. The organization found that more than 70% of parents and applicants believed that a 4-year undergraduate education would cost upwards of $75,000. Incidentally, an overwhelming majority indicated that the economy was a large factor in determining to which colleges to apply, and over 80% indicated that financial aid was very necessary. One of the worst fears about applying or attending college was that students would get into their favored school and not have enough money to attend.

Top Choices for Colleges

Over 40% of students polled planned on applying to 5-8 schools; 33% indicated four schools or less. When asked about their dream college, the top pick for applicants was Stanford University, noted by Princeton Review as a 2011 'Best College' in value and overall experience. In contrast, most parents chose Harvard University. Some schools made both sides of the list, including Yale, NYU, MIT and Princeton. Other institutions that students were interested in attending included the Los Angeles and Berkeley campuses of the University of California, University of Southern California and the University of Pennsylvania. Duke, Brown, University of Notre Dame and Northwestern University were among parents' other popular choices.

Continue reading for information that can help ease your worries about the college application process.

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