Feb 17, 2010

Top Factors Influencing College Choice

In addition to providing interesting demographics from last year’s high school graduating class, the recently released CIRP Freshman Survey also gives insight into those factors that proved most influential in a student’s final decision to enroll in a college or university. Finances are clearly key as college cost and the availability of financial assistance made it into the top 5 “very important” reasons affecting a student’s decision to go to a particular college. But other factors such as a visit to the campus and college reputation also figured highly.

While high school juniors are just beginning the process of developing college lists, seniors are starting to sort through responses to their applications. Because both groups are considering many of the same enrollment factors, it might be useful to take a look at the entire list presented to the nearly 220,000 freshmen who responded to the survey.

Reasons and the percentage cited as “very important” in influencing a student’s decision to attend are listed from highest to lowest:

1. College has very good academic reputation: 63.6 percent
2. This college's graduates get good jobs: 56.5 percent*
3. I was offered financial assistance: 44.7 percent
4. The cost of attending this college: 41.6 percent*
5. A visit to the campus: 41.4 percent
6. Wanted to go to a college about this size: 39.8 percent
7. College has a good reputation for social activities: 39.3 percent
8. Grads get into good grad/professional schools: 34.6 percent
9. Wanted to live near home: 20.1 percent
10. Information from a website: 19.2 percent
11. Parents wanted me to go to this school: 18.8 percent
12. Rankings in national magazines: 18.5 percent
13. Admitted early decision and/or early action: 12.9 percent
14. Could not afford first choice: 12.2 percent
15. High school counselor advised me: 10.3 percent
16. Not offered aid by first choice: 8.9 percent*
16. Athletic department recruited me: 8.9 percent
18. Attracted by religious affiliation/orientation of college: 7.8 percent
18. My teacher advised me: 7.8 percent
20. My relatives wanted me to come here: 7.3 percent
21. Private college counselor advised me: 3.6 percent
22. Ability to take online courses: 2.7 percent

*The highest level since this question was added to the survey.

What factors do you think are most important in the decision of where to go to college?

For more information or to order a complete copy of the report, visit the Higher Education Research Institute website.

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