For the third year in a row, college-bound seniors picked the Big Apple over the Bulldogs.

In the third annual “College Hopes & Worries Survey” conducted by The Princeton Review, high school students and their parents were asked to name their dream colleges — schools they would most like to attend if chances of acceptance or financial cost were not considered. Among students, New York University finished first, followed by Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale, which came in fifth place. Meanwhile, in the parent survey, Princeton and Stanford took the top two spots, and Yale ranked sixth.

But Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said he questions the methodology of the survey because it did not draw from a randomly selected sample representative of the national population.

“My general sense is that some surveys are more useful than others,” he said. “On this one, it would seem terribly difficult to pin down what criteria one might use to specify a ‘dream’ school. What exactly is being measured with respect to perceptions about these schools? Wouldn’t ‘dream school’ mean very different things to different people?”

The survey, published in The Princeton Review’s “Best 361 Colleges,” was compiled from data collected by polling 3,890 high school students applying to colleges and 1,012 parents of college applicants. Last year, New York University also topped the student list, though Yale finished one spot higher, in fourth. Yale was the number five pick by parents last year, with Stanford claiming the top spot.

The appeal of New York University seems to be a result of the university’s cosmopolitan setting, said Robert Franek, vice president and publisher for Princeton Review Books.

“There is a clear change in students towards colleges in urban places,” Franek said. “Colleges like NYU or Yale are good examples of institutions that are unapologetic about the cities they are in. At a school like NYU, the educational experience doesn’t stop in the classroom.”

Franek said he is not surprised that NYU did not finish in the top 10 for the parents’ “dream school” list, as parents tend to be more protective and may be wary of sending their children to New York City. While Yale may have slipped a spot in this year’s rankings, Franek said Yale is an example of a school that is always going to be in the top 10.

Jennifer Maisel, a senior at Syosset High School in Long Island, N.Y., said she believes NYU’s popularity among students is likely based on the resources the city has to offer.

“I think [NYU’s rank] has more to do with stuff outside of the school, like the work opportunities, people you can meet in the city and the lifestyle in general,” she said.

But some said they did not believe NYU deserved the top spot. Yong Cho, a senior at Millburn High School in Millburn, N.J., said he was somewhat surprised by the rankings.

“I don’t think NYU is necessarily right,” he said. “It wouldn’t be in my top 10. Though I guess some of my friends do want to go there because they want to be in the city, but they don’t want to go to Columbia because it’s more work.”

The survey also asked students and parents additional questions about their rationales for selecting a school: 55 percent said they picked the college that was the best overall fit when selecting a school and 9 percent said they chose the college with the best academic reputation. According to the poll, 59 percent of respondents said they are highly stressed about the college application process.

This year, Yale received 21,051 total applications for the Class of 2010, an 8.2 percent increase from last year.