College choice in the United States - Statistics & Facts

Choosing a college is an important decision that determines an individual’s future in many ways, including the financial burdens of attaining education, and job and earning prospects after graduation. Thus, many students in the United States invest a great deal of time into finding a college that would be the best fit for them. In 2015, about 47 percent of students used college websites to inform themselves about prospects of attaining higher education in specific institutions. As a result, many U.S. colleges attribute considerable importance to website-based recruitment strategies. As of 2015, more than 84 percent of colleges paid significant attention to their websites to attract first-time freshmen.


In the recent years there has been a growth in social media use among students when researching colleges. As of 2016, more than 70 percent used Instagram to gather information, which is a notable increase in comparison to 2013, when only 28 percent of students used the app for their college research. About 68 percent of U.S. students also visited Facebook pages of colleges they had particular interest in. Despite the increasing popularity and usage of social media among students, many U.S. colleges are not concentrating much on these platforms. In 2015, only 38 percent of higher education institutions found social media essential to recruit first-time freshmen. In contrast to this, more than 77 percent of colleges thought that hosting campus visits was crucial to their recruitment tactics; moreover, about 97 percent of public four-year colleges and universities used campus visit days for high schools to recruit new students. At the same time, only 20 percent of students stated that college campus visits had an impact on their final decision on attending a specific college in 2015.

When it comes to the final decision of attending a specific college, there are many factors that influence student choice; however, most of them are financially related. In 2015, about 63 percent of the U.S. students considered the costs of attaining education as the most important factor in deciding upon a specific college. Furthermore, almost 50 percent of students stated that the availability of financial aid had an impact on their decision-making. More than half of students in the United States based their decision on a specific college on offered majors and programs. Unsurprisingly, about 93 percent of Pell Grant receiving students favored a specific college due to offered financial assistance, and 88 percent mentioned that their decision was influenced by the costs of attending particular college.

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