High school seniors are still dreaming about the city that never sleeps.
The results of the fourth annual “College Hopes & Worries Survey” are in, with NYU claiming the top spot for the fourth year in a row as the most popular “Dream School.” Stanford came in first in a parallel survey completed by parents. Yale clinched sixth place on the student list — dropping from fifth place last year — and ninth place on the parent list, compared to sixth place in 2006.
The survey also reported a 6 percent increase in students who reported a high stress level regarding the application process. As top schools’ admissions rates have decreased over the past few years, experts said, students have started to apply to a greater number of schools.
The Princeton Review published the survey in its annual book entitled “Best 361 Colleges.” Data were collected by polling 4,594 high school students applying to college and 1,260 parents of college applicants. Specifically, the survey asked, “What ‘dream college’ would you most like to attend (or see your child attend) if acceptance or cost weren’t issues?”
Yale Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said he believes that the ranking system is clearly flawed.
“Like every one of my colleagues at our peer institutions, I am quite skeptical of any system that attempts to rank colleges on some one-dimensional scale,” he wrote in an e-mail.
While the exact positions of various universities fluctuate from year to year, very urban campuses tend to dominate the top spots, according to the report. In addition to NYU, Columbia University took fifth place. Neither of these universities made the parents’ list of top schools.
Robert Franek, author of “Best 361 Colleges,” said that although the survey results should have no bearing on where high school students should choose to apply, they do provide students with the grounds to ask insightful questions.
“A ranking list should lead students to pose smart questions when they start to research colleges. For example, ‘Why should students like an urban campus such as that of NYU?’” he said. “Is it the campus, the buildings or the community?”
High school students said they value the possibilities offered by a diverse urban environment. Hansen Gong, an 18-year-old senior at Bernards High School in Bernardsville, N.J., said he was not surprised by the results.
“Clearly kids have a lot of concern about whether a school has lots of parties and a good social life,” he said. “Parents obviously favor a more reserved and remote campus for their kids, hoping they will succeed more academically. These other schools may have gorgeous campuses, but the options on social life are more limited.”
But Alena Gribskov ’09, who transferred to Yale from NYU after her sophomore year, said the large size of the NYU community could be a turn-off for some students.
“NYU has approximately 20,000 undergraduates, so it’s a huge school, and the administration is really impersonal,” she said. “It’s hard to find people who share your exact interests when you share a large academic major. It’s hard to focus on your studies when there’s such a distracting and interesting city to explore.”
But Gribskov said she believes schools can better assess themselves with the help of surveys like this one.
“Surveys are much more useful for the schools because it is an indication of what prospective students are looking for in their undergraduate experience,” she said.
Before 2005, the student and parent surveys were combined, with Yale claiming fifth place in 2003 and fourth place in 2004.