Princeton University has a #1 university rating from US News, a beautiful walkable campus, and offers amazing financial support to its students. But given the choice, students are choosing to attend Harvard, Yale, Stanford or even the University of Chicago instead. Why are students turning down Princeton U?
For any individual, a bunch of personal factors go into making a college choice. Family reasons, boyfriend/girlfriend considerations, and college-specific strengths in a particular subject will all be factored in. But the website Parchment has analyzed student preferences using data from 104,219 college applicants. Their data show where students go when they hold more than one offer, and there is often a pattern. By this measure, the best school is the one that students always choose, even when they have offers from elsewhere. When it comes to Princeton, 81% of students chose Stanford when they had offers from both schools. That’s not even close. Harvard, Yale and the University of Chicago also drew a majority of students who held offers from Princeton U. For some reason, students seem to prefer those colleges over #1-ranked Princeton.
The findings are unlikely to cause alarm in the admissions office at Nassau Hall. The total number of students lost to other schools is quite small, and Princeton U. is able to turn away more than 90% of the students that apply. But it is interesting to consider why Princeton isn’t the #1 choice for every student, considering it regularly tops published university league tables.
– One possible reason is that the US News and other rankings place too much weight on factors that don’t matter to a student deliberating between two colleges. University league tables are notorious for using spurious factors such as ‘percentage of alumni who donate’ as a measure of university quality. Students might perceive that Harvard and Yale are just better schools, no matter what the league tables say.
– Another possibility is that there is a perception that studying at Princeton U. means putting up with a cliquey, elitist scene. That perception may be unfair, and the University has done a lot to ensure a diverse student body, but every year the ‘Daily Princetonian’ obsesses over the ‘bicker’ thing and what ‘eating club’ on Prospect Avenue is drawing the most applicants.
– Finally, and much as it pains us to consider this, it might be that the town of Princeton is just not perceived as a cool place to study, especially compared to Cambridge, Silicon Valley, or Chicago. In recent years, several of Princeton U.’s celebrity faculty have left town, and Princeton is seldom found on lists of ‘Best College Towns’.
Which of these reasons do you think explain why students don’t choose Princeton? Or what other reasons can you think of? Do you know anyone who turned down an offer from Princeton? Leave us your thoughts and comments using the form below.