Students' top 10 dream schools of 2017

An annual survey from the Princeton Review reveals the top "hopes & worries" that students and their families have about college.

To compile the report, researchers analyzed survey responses from more than 10,500 people, of whom around 81% were college applicants and 19% were parents of applicants.

Respondents' hopes for college centered on employment outcomes. Around 41% of respondents said they were motivated to choose a college based on career interests, and 42% replied that the main benefit of college is the opportunity to get a better job and higher salary. 

The No. 1 factor that determines salaries

The 10 schools most commonly named as "dream schools" by applicants were:

  1. Stanford University
  2. Harvard College
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  4. New York University
  5. University of California–Los Angeles
  6. Columbia University
  7. Princeton University
  8. University of California–Berkeley
  9. University of Pennsylvania
  10. Yale University

Why would students ever decline their dream schools?

Respondents' fears about college focused on cost. Parents were more likely to estimate high costs from college—61% of parents predicted college would cost more than $100,000, compared with 39% of students.

Debt was cited as the top fear—and concerns about debt have been on the rise over the past decade. In 2006, respondents said they were most worried about not getting accepted to their top choice school. In 2007, affordability crept in—respondents said their top concern was not being able to afford their top choice. Debt has been the top worry since 2013.

The results echo other research finding that students are increasingly concerned about return on investment when choosing a college. The trend may be driven in large part by the combination of rising tuition and sluggish income growth.  A study published in March found that students from families making six-figure incomes still can't afford 59% of colleges without taking out loans (Princeton Review report, accessed 4/12).

How ROI concerns are impacting students' enrollment decisions

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