National Decision Day: MIT is top pick for U.S. college hopefuls

MIT is the ultimate “dream” college for American high school students in the process of applying to university—despite it costing tens of thousands of dollars to attend.

In its 2023 College Hopes and Worries survey, The Princeton Review polled 12,225 people across all 50 states and Washington D.C.—72% of whom were high school students applying to college, and the other 28% being parents of college applicants.

The survey found that the school most high schoolers dreamed of attending wasn’t an Ivy League university—although it was a globally prestigious college.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was the number one pick among the student respondents, with Stanford, Harvard, NYU and UCLA rounding out the top five.

MIT is frequently ranked as one of the best universities in the country, with Forbes naming it America’s top college for the first time in 2022.

Parents, however, favored Princeton, the survey found, with Harvard and Stanford coming in second and third place respectively. MIT was the fifth most popular college among the 3,423 parents who took part in the study.

While securing a place at MIT was the dream of most students in the poll, the school is notoriously difficult to get into.

For the class of 2026, MIT received almost 34,000 applications—and fewer than 4% were successful.

Students hoping to secure a place at MIT also have to achieve exceptional test scores.

Those admitted to MIT’s class of 2026 achieved a median score between 790 and 800 for SAT Math, while median ACT scores were around 35 across the board.

It’s also one of America’s priciest colleges to attend, with tuition, fees and basic living costs coming in at around $70,000 in just one year.

Although many high schoolers will dream about attending college ahead of National Decision Day in May, college enrollment has plummeted in recent years, dropping 8% between 2019 to 2022, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse.

Economists have warned fewer college graduates could exacerbate labor shortages being felt in various sectors.

However, with the cost of higher education and the resulting student debt remaining a turn-off for many prospective students, many Gen Zers are questioning whether getting a degree is worth it.

The debt burden is especially heavy for borrowers who are nonwhite, low-income, and women, a recent study found—and the cost of a college degree could be undoing the American dream.

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