How 2022 high school students approached college applications

Among the high school class of 2022, 59% of prospective students applied to five or more institutions, and 26% applied to ten or more. That’s one of the key findings of this year’s Niche Senior Enrollment Survey, the seventh such survey conducted by the popular college assessment and review platform.

Niche received complete responses from 21,866 high school students who had registered a profile on its platform. The survey was open from April 15 to June 12, 2022, allowing students time to respond after the May 1 deadline that many institutions use for attendance decisions.

The survey covered several areas, including when and how students applied to college, how well they did in gaining admission, how they approached standardized tests, what kind of financial aid they received, and what factors were most important to them when deciding. where they went to college.

Here are some important points:

The majority of students begin their college search process after their freshman year; 24% started during the summer before their senior year, 27% during the fall semester of their senior year, and 7% during the spring semester of their senior year. Only 17% of students started their college search before their freshman year.

However, this overall result was nuanced by the type of school to which students applied. Students who only considered 2-year colleges were almost three times more likely to start their research in their senior year, especially in the spring semester.

Nearly half of students who only considered 2-year colleges said they submitted only one application. Of those who exclusively considered 4-year colleges and universities, just 8% submitted only one application.

Most students made an in-person visit to at least one college. Before the pandemic, only 7% of students said they had not made in-person visits to a college they were considering. This percentage rose to 28% in 2021, at the height of the pandemic. This year, 19% said they had not made any in-person visits, indicating that campus visits are resuming, but still not at pre-pandemic levels. About 15% of students reported having made five or more in-person visits to campus.

Only 13% of students who were not part of a low-income household said they did not visit any campus, much lower than the 25% of low-income students who said they did not visit.

Emails (75%) and letters (64%) were the communication channels cited by the majority of respondents as having influenced their application process. More than a quarter (26%) of students said they had applied to a college they had not previously known about due to a prospect email they had received. Text messaging was the third highest rated, with 40% saying it was influential. Video chats were the fourth highest rated. Postcards were least likely to be considered influential forms of communication.

College websites were the most important source of information used to research colleges 90% of respondents said they were important. Other top-used resources were university search platforms like Niche at 78%, net price calculators at 71%, a university visit at 68%, virtual tours at 55%, and virtual events at 51%.

Family members were cited most often as sources of influence on student college applications. The other most influential groups were current college students at 64%, friends at 61%, and online critics at 55%.

More than half of students said admissions counselors influenced their decision. Counselors were significantly more influential for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, African American/Black, and Hispanic/Latin students. They were also more influential for first-generation students, low-income students, and students reporting a GPA below 3.0.

Institutional prestige carries considerable weight with students, with 62% say awareness of a college’s brand and name influenced their decision; only 5% said it didn’t matter to them at all.

Brand was least important to Native American/Alaska Native (46%) and White (53%) students, and most important to Chinese (85%), Indian (84%), Koreans (83%) and Vietnamese (83%) students.

Name recognition was also more important for students who considered 4-year colleges as opposed to 2-year colleges.

Campus characteristics matter – in some cases, a lot.

Diversity was the most important factor of the campus community for students, with 84% saying a diverse student body was attractive and 46% saying it was a ” must have”. Diversity among faculty and staff was also high, with 81% wanting it and 40% saying it was a must-have feature. Diversity issues were important for students from underrepresented groups (89%) as well as those who did not belong to underrepresented groups (79%).

More than half of students said they considered colleges more than four hours from home, while 18% said they only considered colleges within an hour of home. Only 38% of first-generation students said they would consider a university more than four hours away from home, compared to 53% of their peers. Family income also counted on this score — 58% of low-income students planned to enroll more than two hours away from home, compared to 86% of students from households earning more than $130,000 a year.

Safety was another top concern – with 97% stating the importance of campus safety and 96% citing the safety of the city or community around campus.

The availability of scholarships was another highly influential factor, with 95% of students attributing importance to it.

Arts and culture continued to be more important than athletics, a trend that has been revealed in previous surveys of seniors conducted during the pandemic. More than three-quarters of students want arts and cultural activities to be featured in the campus community, compared to 57% who want a strong experience for fans of athletics and 43% who want an emphasis on sports participation .

Most students still take standardized admissions tests, but many do not submit their grades. While three-quarters of respondents said they took a standardized test (SAT/ACT/CLT) in high school, only 46% of those who took a test said they submitted their results to all colleges, whether mandatory or nope. Another 22% did not submit their grades to any college.

First-generation students, underrepresented minorities, and low-income students were all significantly less likely to have taken a standardized test and submitted their results as part of their applications.

Most students are accepted for admission by their first choice school. More than three-quarters of students (78%) said they had been accepted by the college they identified as their “first choice,” and nearly half of respondents (43%) said they had been accepted for admission by five or more colleges.

Applicants are very sensitive to college prices. Of this year’s respondents, 81% said they eliminated colleges and did not apply due to the total cost or “sticker price”. This is a substantial increase from 73% in 2021, 68% in 2020 and 56% before the pandemic.

“As college prices go up, so do the scholarships used to make them more affordable for students,” said Will Patch, senior enrollment information manager at Niche. “However, college pricing is so different from anything else that the majority of students choose to weed out colleges from consideration based on the listed price rather than waiting to see how much help they get. Each time the total cost increases, a college eliminates more potential students. »

To make a more specific point, first-generation and low-income students were more likely than their peers to say they would only consider colleges with a total cost of less than $10,000 per year.

Nevertheless, students who had been accepted to at least two colleges did not necessarily choose to enroll in the cheapest option – 13% said they enrolled in a college that was much more expensive than their others. options, 18% said they would enroll in a more expensive college, and only 36% said they would enroll in a cheaper college than their other choices.

Of the enrolled students, 82% said they applied for scholarships and grants outside, and 2% said that even if they did not apply, their parents did for them.. In a disappointing finding, first-generation college students and respondents in the lowest income quintile were the least likely to report applying for scholarships.

More than a third of students said they planned to take out loans in their first year at college, and 36% said they had not yet decided whether to take on debt. student loan. And in another disturbing finding, students who weren’t sure they could afford the college they were attending were more likely to take out loans and four times as likely to take out a loan of $20,000 or more in their first year. .

Three-quarters of students said they planned to work while in college, and 19% said they hadn’t decided if they would work yet.

Nearly three-quarters of students said they received financial aid from the college they attend. Merit-based aid was the most common form of aid, with 56% reporting having received it, followed by 39% reporting having received aid based on need. Sports and arts scholarships were much less common – only 3% and 4% of respondents said they received them respectively.

Only 58% of low-income students said they had received aid from the college they would attend, another indication that many institutions continue to place a lower priority on need-based aid rather than aid based on merit.

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