College Choices

While a college education was seen as a luxury for Americans just decades ago, it has become more or less a standard to spend at least a couple of semesters at a university today. As you can imagine, this means that students graduating from high school have some pretty life-altering choices to make before the end of the year.

Submitting a college application to a college board can be as burdensome — and as stressful — as finishing high school itself. High school students still by and large believe that it is all worth it, because a college degree opens the doorway to an untold number of professional opportunities that are otherwise unavailable. Well, that’s the perception at least. College enrollment in the United States is dropping as of the time of writing, so the allure of higher education could be taking a downturn. However, each academic year is still rife with students sending out applications and some deciding to attend community college.

You may think that choosing the best college may be based on, say, what academics the institution is known for nationally. Or, perhaps undergrads are more concerned with convenience and don’t want to move too far away from home for whatever reason.

The truth is that the process of choosing a college is a bit more complicated than that. Some students are more than open to the idea of packing up and starting a whole new life — at least for the next four or so years. Maybe a student’s options were limited, so they had to pick out of necessity.

The research below cuts to the heart of the college selection process, going deep into understanding where students are going and why.

Trying to Get Away

First, we looked at how far away students are moving away from home by state to attend the right college. Unsurprisingly, several more rural states top the list, including Arizona, Idaho, and Arkansas. Surpassing all of them, however, is New Hampshire, where students move 581 miles away on average to attend college.

The reason for New Hampshire ranking so high on the list isn’t immediately apparent, but it could have to do with the fact that the state is ranked as the seventh-most expensive state to attend college in the country. This could cause the student body to have a more expansive college search.

Dreams Can Be Expensive

With the cost of college higher now than it has ever been in the past, American students are quite familiar with the idea that you don’t always get what you want. College admissions are some of the most strict board in the country. Most, however, are getting exactly what they want in terms of college choice. Our research shows that almost 7 out of 10 are being accepted into their first pick, and can attend. Many students don’t have the ability to get financial aid for the amount of tuition. Some students just dont want to have student loans when they finish being college students.

Of course, it’s hard not to have top picks when picking a school to start your career. However, experts are cautioning students to avoid having a “top pick” and a “safety school,” saying that only sets students up for disappointment. Every university on your list should be a place you would be eager to attend. After all, name brands aren’t always everything.

Getting in is the Easy Part

Paying for college isn’t easy, and students graduating with mountains of debt has become the norm — especially in the United States. America ranks second only to England for having the most expensive tuitions in the world. The countries lower on that list don’t fare much better. In today’s day and age college funding is as important as college planning.

According to our data, almost 50 percent of respondents say they cannot afford to attend any college they want to go to. Scholarships do offset the burden, however, for just over 23 percent of our respondents.

Go With Your Heart — No, Not That One!

For some students, choosing a college to attend is more personal instead of academic. But as many who have walked this path understand, it isn’t always a great idea to follow your high school sweetheart into college.

Our study shows that, of people who followed their significant other to college, 46 percent of them end up transferring to another school — presumably after that relationship ends. That number drops to less than half of that for people who didn’t let their romantic interests influence their top choice.

And this is more common than you might think. Approximately 33 percent of all college relationships are long distance.

Take Time to Tour the Campus

Before picking out a campus where you’ll be spending the next few years of your life, it makes sense to go on a campus visit. Some campuses have a great greek life including sororities and fraternities and some do not. People who tour a university seem more likely to graduate from it. On your tour make sure to ask about career paths, extracurricular activities and graduation rate. Our data shows that 76 percent of students who visited the campus first end up graduating from that college. By contrast, 65 percent of students who didn’t tour the school end up doing the same.

Fortunately, touring college campuses is easier than ever before. If you’re on the fence about taking time to travel, many colleges are now offering virtual reality tours that you can take without leaving your home. Whether is a big school or small school you want to make sure its the right school.

Whatever the Reason, Make the Correct Choice

The final part of our research explores the big question — why do students go to the colleges then end up attending? The leading answer, by far, is academic achievement — with over 40 percent citing this as the answer. Other important factors, however, are not insignificant — 14 percent say they went because a family member did the same, for example. Sports falls pretty low on the list, with only five percent listing it as the main reason.

Students and academic professionals today tend to place a hefty emphasis on undergraduate education, but previous research suggests that what you do after those four years is more important. As it turns out, being accepted into a highly selective undergraduate program doesn’t guarantee a salary boost later in life.


We just looked at a lot of reasons why students want to go to their colleges of choice, as well as the factors that may limit or enhance their decisions. A constant theme we saw throughout our research was just how much of a burden the cost of higher education is. And while it’s true that not all academic programs are created equal, it’s easy to see how this can be a challenge for students who may have a lot of potential.

Scholarships are one of the best ways to offset these costs. This is why Lawnstarter offers its scholarship. Students who are interested in starting their businesses and creating jobs are encouraged to apply.


Logan Freedman

Logan Freedman

Logan Freedman has been expertly producing content marketing for more than five years, with a focus on data-driven content. Logan has a passion for finding unique and catchy trends in data. His work has been featured in USA Today, People magazine, Pitchfork, The Guardian, and many other publications. He found his calling after studying political science and several other topics at Florida Gulf Coast University.