Posted by: Gregory Linton | 12/06/2018

What factors cause students to choose a college?

In November, the Institute for Education Sciences of the National Center for Education Statistics released a Data Point report titled “Factors that influence student college choice.” The two-page report was based on data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09), which is a nationally representative study of more than 23,000 ninth-graders in 2009 who were surveyed again in spring 2012 when most of them were in eleventh grade. The survey asked about characteristics that would influence choosing a school or college after high school. Here were the three factors with the highest percentages of “very important” ratings:

  • Academic quality/reputation (74%)
  • Having a desired program of study (74%)
  • Job placement (73%)

Three other responses received “very important” ratings from more than 50% of respondents:

  • Cost of attendance (67%)
  • Graduate school placement (58%)
  • Good social life (52%)

When the responses of “somewhat important” are added to the “very important” responses for “cost of attendance,” the percentage goes up to 96%. Here are the lowest “very important” responses:

  • Sports teams/school spirit (33%)
  • Being close to home (26%)
  • Opportunity to play sports (24%)
  • Family/friend recommendations (24%)
  • Being far from home (12%)
  • Family legacy (9%)

These results may indicate which characteristics of a college or university should be emphasized in publicity materials. For example, data about job placement and graduate school placement should be provided. Any evidence that promotes the quality and reputation of the institution should be highlighted. And how the average net price compares with similar institutions may also help students make an informed decision.

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