Online tools are helping students choose colleges earlier.
It is commonly thought that students arrive at a choice for their ideal college during their senior year, but is that always the case? A recent Cappex survey of more than 260 college freshmen says it is not. Surprisingly, 43 percent of survey responders said they chose their college before senior year, and a good percentage said they chose their ideal college even earlier than junior year.
The study found:
- 57% chose their ideal college senior year
- 23% chose their ideal college junior year
- 20% chose their ideal college sophomore or freshman year
“It is imperative that colleges make students aware of their institutions early in high school and continue to maintain awareness through senior year,” said Chris Long, President of Cappex.
What are the main influences inspiring first choice?
The study also looked at the main factors about a college that inspire an ideal college choice. School attributes like reputation, size of school, and campus appeal topped the list. Of course these days, financial assistance is also a very important driver.
To probe on the influencing factors, the Cappex study used answer choices that mirrored the larger 2008 CIRP study by The University of California at Los Angeles Higher Education Research Institute.
The students in the Cappex study said:
- The school had a good reputation: 50%
- My visit to campus: 48%
- The school offered me financial assistance: 35%
- Size of school: 33%
- Overall cost of attending: 30%
- The school had a good reputation for its social activities: 19%
- Graduates from the school get good jobs: 17%
“A visit to campus appears to be one of the major influencing factors, and it is one that colleges can affect from a recruiting standpoint,” said Long. “For those students who may not be willing to travel to visit, colleges should aim to give them a taste of that on-campus experience online through their websites, college search sites, and social media.”
What are some perks offered by colleges that tip the scales in deciding where to enroll?
In addition to the typical things like scholarships and extracurricular programs, it is interesting to see that attributes like having a green campus and free Wi-Fi can help students make an enrollment decision.
Students said these perks tipped the scales for them:
- Had great extracurricular programs: 61%
- Provided non-departmental or general merit scholarships: 51%
- Offered opportunities for paid work study: 54%
- Free Wi-Fi: 53%
- Provided a departmental merit scholarship: 35%
- Had new classroom facilities: 32%
- Had a green campus: 30%
- Had new residence halls: 28%
- Offered in-state tuition to out-of-state students: 22%
- Provided free laptops: 8%
So, how can colleges tip the scales in their favor? They can start by reaching out to college-bound high school students online early and often, give them a three-dimensional feel of what their college is about, and have a recruiting hook.
“By the way, at Cappex, we’ve observed that it is never too late for colleges to recruit seniors,” said Long. “Many seniors add colleges to their lists well into spring semester.”
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