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At a time of significant change in the higher education landscape, gaining insight into the mindset, attitudes and perspectives of today’s and tomorrow’s college applicants is crucial. How are they approaching the admissions process? What matters to them (and their parents)? What are their priorities, concerns and opinions – and how is that shaping their college decisions? 

The Parent & Student College Admissions Survey, conducted in December 2023 by AcceptU, a leading college consulting firm, provides insights into these questions – and more. With more than 400 high school parents and students participating, the survey captures a diverse range of viewpoints on key issues such as affordability, diversity, mental health and college choice. 

Our findings reveal a complex and multifaceted picture of the current college admissions playing field, offering a glimpse into the trends that may redefine the future of higher education – for both students and universities. We have distilled responses into ten key takeaways, each offering unique insights and implications for applicants, parents and academic institutions.

  • Half of applicants want to ban legacy admission; one-third support affirmative action
  • Families are divided on the impact of political and social issues on college choice 
  • COVID-19 is no longer having an impact on college planning for the majority of families 
  • Eighty percent of students cite cost as the dominant factor influencing their college decisions 
  • Students are stressed about the college process and the majority say their parents are the cause 
  • Parents are deeply involved – and many say it’s because schools are falling short 
  • College rankings still matter a lot and one-third of applicants will apply to 20+ colleges 
  • Applicants are taking a pragmatic approach, prioritizing academics, cost and career 
  • Career prospects drive major choice and indicate a paradox for non-STEM majors 
  • Twenty-five percent of students are opting for the test-optional route; many are skeptical of testing efficacy

These insights underscore the complexity of the college admissions landscape, highlighting a need for holistic support and adaptability in responding to the varied concerns and priorities of students and their families. As the process continues to evolve, it will become increasingly important to provide transparent guidance and resources that cater to the diverse needs of applicants.

Direct all media inquires to Marc Zawel, CEO

About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

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