The Princeton Review's 2014 "College Hopes & Worries Survey" Reports On 14,150 Students' & Parents' "Dream Colleges" And Application Perspectives

- 89% Say Financial Aid "Very Necessary"

- 70% Report High Stress

- Stanford is #1 "Dream College" Among Students & Parents / #2 is Harvard

Mar 18, 2014, 06:00 ET from Random House / Princeton Review Books

NEW YORK, March 18, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Some call it "the other March madness."  It's nail-biting season now through April as college acceptance / rejection and financial aid letters land in family mailboxes. 

According to The Princeton Review's 2014 "College Hopes & Worries Survey" – the Company's 11th annual poll of college applicants and parents – concerns about paying for college run deep and stress about applications is higher than ever.  This year, 89% of survey respondents said financial aid will be "Very Necessary" to pay for college, and within that cohort 65% said, "Extremely Necessary."  Seventy percent reported stress levels as "High" or "Very High."

Nonetheless, 100% of the respondents believe college will be worth it and 51% see a "Potentially better job / higher income" as the key benefit of earning the diploma.

The college that applicants and parents most named as their "Dream College" – the school they wish they (or their child) could attend were cost and acceptance not issues  – was Stanford.  Harvard was the 2nd most named.

The Princeton Review, one of the nation's best known education services companies, has conducted this survey since 2003. Findings for the 2014 survey are based on responses from 14,150 people: 71% (10,116) teens applying to colleges and 29% (4,034) parents of applicants. Respondents hailed from all 50 states and DC, plus several countries abroad. The 15-question survey ran in The Princeton Review book, The Best 378 Colleges: 2014 Edition (Random House, August 2013), and was accessible on from August 2013 through February 19, 2014.

Top 10 "Dream Colleges"

Answering the survey's only fill-in-the-blank question, "What 'dream college' do you wish you or your child could attend if acceptance or cost weren't issues?," respondents wrote in names of more than 500 institutions.  

The colleges students most named as their "dream college" were:

1) Stanford University
2) Harvard College
3) Columbia University
4) New York University
5) Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
6) Princeton University 
7) University of CaliforniaLos Angeles
8) Yale University
9) University of MichiganAnn Arbor
10) University of CaliforniaBerkeley

The colleges parents most named as their "dream college" for their children were:

1) Stanford University
2) Harvard College
3) Princeton University
4) Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
5) University of MichiganAnn Arbor
6) University of Notre Dame 
7) Duke University 
8) New York University
9) Yale University 
10) Vanderbilt University

In students' and parents' responses to questions with multiple answer choices, findings show these perspectives among respondents overall:

  • Applications are stressssssss-ful.
    97% reported having application stress: 70% gauged their stress levels as "High" or "Very High." Students reported higher stress levels than parents.
  • Toughest factor? Tests.
    35% of respondents (the plurality) chose the answer, "Taking the SAT, ACT or APs," when asked which aspect of the application was toughest.  That has been the answer most selected by respondents overall for seven of the past 10 years.
  • Biggest worry? Debt.
    35% (the plurality) said their biggest worry was "Level of debt to pay for the degree" while 34% chose the answer, "Will get into first-choice college, but won't have sufficient funds/aid to attend."  In 2009, the answer most selected was "Won't get in to first-choice college." 
  • College cost estimate? $50,000+
    86% estimated their degree to cost "More than $50,000."  Within that cohort, 42% said, "More than $100,000."
  • Main benefit of college? Jobs.
    51% said the biggest benefit of earning a degree was a "Potentially better job / income" while 24% most valued the "Education" and 25% said "Exposure to new ideas."
  • Distance from home of "ideal" college? Parents and their children differ.
    52% of parents chose "Less than 250 miles": 63% of students chose answers in ranges from 250 to 1,000 miles.

Other findings report on: how many colleges respondents were applying to, impact of economy on their college decisions, and how important a college's "green" commitment is.  The Princeton Review also asked respondents their advice for next year's applicants.  The most repeated exhortation: "Start early."  A survey report plus a sampler of respondents' advice is at

The Princeton Review today also released its newest book: If the U Fits: Expert Advice on Finding the Right College and Getting Accepted (Random House / Princeton Review, $14.99) by Kevin McMullin, Founder of Collegewise, and Rob Franek, SVP-Publisher, The Princeton Review.  The Company is also known for its annual college rankings it reports in August in The Best 378 Colleges and its lists in The Best Value Colleges, published in February.

The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University and it is not a magazine.

About The Princeton Review
The Princeton Review is a leading test preparation and college admission services company. Every year it helps millions of college- and graduate school-bound students achieve their education and career goals through its test preparation, tutoring, and admissions services, its online resources, and its more than 150 print and digital books published by Random House LLC. The Company delivers its services via a network of more than 4,000 teachers and tutors in the U.S.A. and Canada, and through its international franchises in 14 other countries. The Company also partners directly with school districts and non-governmental organizations to provide students with college readiness services including college selection, test preparation, financial aid advice, and admissions support. The Princeton Review is headquartered in Natick, MA, and is privately held.  For more information, visit and  Follow the Company's Twitter feed @ThePrincetonRev

SOURCE Random House / Princeton Review Books