Almost all high school seniors are familiar with the symptoms: anxiety, stress, disturbed sleep. The Princeton Review calls it "The Other March Madness," and it is the period between now and mid-April when the envelopes start dropping through the mail slots: thin to signal disappointment, and the thick ones that augur a fulfillment of a dream. This is the time that most colleges are sending out not only their decisions, but also financial aid packages which, with the price of college moving ever forward, are almost as vital a concern for applicants and their parents.
According to The Princeton Review's 2012 "College Hopes & Worries Survey" – an annual poll of college applicants and parents of applicants – stress levels are up this year and college costs remain a sobering concern. Eighty-six percent of respondents say financial aid will be "very" necessary (and within that cohort 61% say "extremely" necessary). Seventy-five percent report the state of the economy has affected their college choices.
Every year, around this time, the Princeton Review, one of the largest test-prep companies in the country, releases its annual "College Hopes & Worries Survey," which polls seniors and their families for their views on the college application process, their state of mind as it's coming to a close, their concerns about financial aid, and what they consider to be their "dream school." This year's edition collected data from 10,650 students and parents and found:
· 71% Report High Stress Levels
· 86% Say Financial Aid "Very Necessary"
· 75% Say Economy Affecting Their College Choices
· #1 "Dream College" Among Students: Harvard
· #1 "Dream College" Among Parents: Stanford
The Princeton Review, which has been publishing the survey since 2003, also asks the respondents, who answer several fill-in-the-blank questions as well as some multiple-choice, what their advice might be for next year's applicants.
The most common refrain from parents and students alike: "Start early." One student targeted his advice to parents: "Your kid is going through the process. NOT you." Another teen wisely wrote, "Enjoy applying to colleges. You (hopefully) only get to do it once."