Co-written with Pamela Lee, Market Research Consultant, Noel-Levitz
In the first part of this two-part blog, we discussed how we found that half of college-bound high school students we surveyed expressed negative emotions over the college choice process—stress, anxiety, confusion, and other negative feelings. This second part will discuss additional findings we uncovered as we dove deeper into the data.
The role of a campus visit on student emotions during the college choice process
Does a campus visit create stress or relieve it? To find out, we asked students “Have you visited any campuses to learn more about attending those colleges?”
Campus visits appeared to intensify student emotions, both positive and negative. Students who visited a campus were more likely to be excited and relieved than those who did not—provided the visit was an affirming one. As one student said, “When I visited the campus, it made me feel calm.”
If the visit was non-affirming, however, the student became even more stressed than before. This suggests that immediate follow-up with visiting students is critical in order to determine the impression the institution has made—to reinforce if positive and to mitigate if not.
We explored various groups of students in their likelihood to visit college campuses and found the following results:
- Females were more likely than males to visit.
- High-income students were more likely than others to visit.
- Higher GPA students were more likely to visit.
- Among seniors, Caucasian students were more likely to visit; first-generation students were less likely to visit.
Other differences among groups
Our original hypothesis was that getting an early start on college planning (eighth grade or before) would make the entire process less stressful for students and their families. But the data showed that early college planning is not related to students’ reporting of positive vs. negative emotions. We now theorize that early planners are often doing so with the encouragement of parents who may have high expectations for their son or daughter’s school choice. The reported stress may represent the added pressure many high achievers often face.