Mar 31, 2012

Survey Finds Increased Stress and Continuing Concern about Money among College Applicants

The Princeton Review confirms what local families are saying—it’s all about the money. And money concerns produce stress.

According to The Princeton Review’s 2012 “College Hopes & Worries Survey”—an annual poll of college applicants and parents of applicants—stress levels are up while cost remains a driving factor in college selection.

And reflecting the feelings of many local students, one survey respondent from Fairfax volunteered, “Whoever said that senior year is the easiest is a liar.”

Since 2003, The Princeton Review has polled college-bound students and their parents on issues related to the application process and what they hope—or afraid—will happen as the process draws to a close. Versions of the 2012 survey appeared in The Best 376 Colleges and ran on The Princeton Review website where the form could be completed online. Survey results reflected the views of 10,650 respondents from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Among those responding to the survey, 86 percent said financial aid would be “very necessary,” and within that group, 61 percent marked financial aid as “extremely” necessary. Seventy-five percent reported that the state of the economy affected their college choices.

And not surprisingly, 71 percent gauged their stress levels as “High” or “Very High”—up 15 percent from 2003.

Here are some of the other findings from the 2012 Princeton Review College Hopes & Worries Survey:

  • Harvard and Stanford remain the top two dream colleges among parents and students—absent questions of admission and cost

  • The biggest worry about applying to/attending college is getting in but not having sufficient funds or financial aid to attend (34%)—the biggest worry every year since 2007 (in 2006, the biggest concern was not getting into the first-choice college)

  • Parents typically estimate college will cost more than what students think

  • Most students (49 percent) applied to between 5 and 8 colleges, but 21 percent applied to 9 or more schools with 4 percent applying to 13 or more schools

  • 58 percent saw the main benefit of a college degree as a potentially better job, higher income, and career training while 42 percent saw education and learning as key benefits

  • Most students (35 percent) thought taking admission and placement tests was the toughest part of their application experience while most parents (30 percent) chose the answer, “completing applications for admission and financial aid”

  • Parents want their children to attend college closer to home with 51 percent indicating they would like their children to be less than 250 miles away. Among students, 54 percent want to be 500 or more miles from home.

  • While most respondents (45 percent) said they/their child would likely attend the college that will be the “best overall fit,” only 1 of 9—or 11 percent—indicated they’d choose the college with the best reputation

On that last note, sighs of satisfaction may be heard from college counselors all over the land.

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