Mar 21, 2013

Money Concerns produce Stress among College Applicants and their Families

Two surveys released in two days confirm what families already know—it’s all about the money.  And money worries produce high levels of stress.

According to The Princeton Review’s (PR) 2013 “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.

In fact, 79 percent said the state of the economy has affected their decisions about college—up 4 percent from 2012.

These findings exactly parallel survey results published yesterday by Inside Higher Ed, in which two-thirds of parents surveyed said they are very or somewhat likely to restrict the colleges to which their children apply because of concerns about costs.

And reflecting the feelings of many students, one PR survey respondent from Phoenix, AZ volunteered, “Getting into college is the easy part.  Paying for it, on the other hand, is difficult.”

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 2013 survey appeared in The Best 377 Colleges and ran on The Princeton Review website where the form could be completed online. Survey results reflected the views of 14,125 respondents (9,955 students and 4,170 parents) from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Among those responding to the survey, 89 percent said financial aid would be “very necessary” (up three percent from last year), and within that group, 66 percent marked financial aid as “extremely” necessary (a five percent increase over 2012). 

And not surprisingly, 97 percent reported having college application stress—69 percent gauged their stress levels as “High” or “Very High.”

Here are some of the other findings from the 2013 Princeton Review College Hopes & Worries Survey:
  • Stanford University was most frequently named by parents and students as their “dream college”—absent questions of admission and cost.
  • The biggest worry about applying to/attending college is “Level of debt incurred to pay for college” (39 percent).  In the previous two years, the answer most selected was “Will get into first-choice college, but won’t have sufficient funds/aid to attend.”  In 2009, it was “Won’t get into first-choice college.”
  • Parents typically estimate college will cost far more than what students think.
  • Most students (44 percent) applied to between 5 and 8 colleges, but 22 percent applied to 9 or more schools with 5 percent applying to 13 or more schools.
  • 51 percent saw the main benefit of a college degree as a “potentially better job and higher income” while 24 percent saw “education” as a key benefit.
  • Most respondents (34 percent) thought “Completing applications for admission and financial aid” was the toughest part of their application experience (last year most chose the answer “Taking the SAT, ACT or AP’s”).
  • Parents and students are increasingly concerned that college choice aligns well with “career interests.”
  • Parents want their children to attend college closer to home with 52 percent indicating they would like their children to be less than 250 miles away. Among students, 53 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 10—or 9 percent—indicated they’d choose a college based on “reputation.”
On that last note, huge sighs of relief may be heard from college counselors all over the land.

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