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College choice in the United States - Statistics & Facts

Selecting a college is a major life decision that many high school seniors face every year. Prospective college students have no shortage of decisions as of 2017, there were 4,313 higher education institutions across the country. Many factors influence a student's decision when choosing a college, some of which include cost of attendance, location, majors offered, and size. Furthermore, students must endure a rigorous admissions process, which includes standardized testing scores, grades, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation. In 2017, colleges and universities that accepted less than 50 percent of applicants received about 37 percent of applications nationally. Following acceptances from the colleges students applied to, then starts the tough decision-making process.

Social media and college choice

Social media has played a notable role in the college decision-making process. As of 2016, more than 70 percent of students used Instagram to gather information on colleges, which is a significant increase in comparison to 2013, when only 28 percent of students used Instagram for their college research. About 68 percent of U.S. students also visited Facebook pages of colleges they had a particular interest in. Even with the increasing popularity and usage of social media among students, many U.S. colleges are not focused on these platforms. In 2015, only 38 percent of higher education institutions found social media necessary to recruit first-time freshmen.

The cost of college

The most influential reason for choosing a college is financial reasons, as university costs in the United States are exorbitantly high. In the 2018/19 academic year, the cost to attend university reached 33,663 U.S. dollars. In 2015, 63 percent of U.S. students said that the cost of attending university was the most important factor when deciding which university to attend. Furthermore, 88 percent of students who received Pell Grants cited the cost of attending college as an influential factor. Additionally, 93 percent of students who received Pell Grants said they chose their university because it offered financial aid. Many students opt to attend a public university, as it is significantly more affordable when compared to private university tuition.


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