The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2013

By Betsy Prueter

The annual Freshmen survey, a report from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at UCLA, recently released findings based on survey responses from over 165,000 first-time, full-time freshmen enrolled at over 200 four-year colleges. The report reveals that college cost and financial aid have become even more relevant in a student’s college choice process than ever before, though academic reputation and job prospects continue to rank as the top reasons a student chooses to attend a particular college. In addition to analyzing students’ application strategies and decision-making processes, the report also reviews students’ attitudes on the most-discussed political issues of 2013 including gun control, gay rights and taxes.

Key findings of the report include: – 55% of survey respondents applied to more than three other colleges in addition to the application they submitted for their current institution. This is an increase of 10 percentage points from 2008. – The report reasons that while this increase may be due to the perceived increase in competition to get into college, it might also be due to the growing number of institutions using the common application. – The proportion of students enrolling in their first-choice institution is at its lowest point since 1974; just fewer than 57% of students are attending their first-choice school, despite the fact that over three quarters of students were admitted to their first-choice school. – High cost of attendance and inadequate financial aid were cited as primary reasons students did not attend their first-choice school, regardless of whether or not they were admitted. – The report calls for greater pre-college financial counseling for students given that 51% plan to take out loans to help cover the cost of attending college, 73% count on grants, 78% use family resources, and 62% plan to use their own savings. – While academic reputation and job prospects are the top two reasons for selecting a college, the percent of students who indicate that cost of attendance and financial aid packages are “very important” factors in their decision is at its highest point in the last 10 years. – More than half of first generation students cite financial aid and cost as “very important” factors in college selection, compared to 43% of continuing generation students. – Given the rise in popularity of online learning, the survey asks how familiar college freshmen were with online instructional websites. – Fewer than 42% “frequently” or “occasionally” used online learning activities for a class in the past year. – Nearly 70% used online instructional websites to learn independently or something of their own choosing and interest in the past year.