As a former enrollment leader, I know how important it is to monitor students’ changing behavior and preferences when it comes to the college search. Fortunately, our partners at PowerSchool conduct an annual student survey within Naviance – the leading college, career, and life readiness platform – to learn more about how the college-search process is evolving.
The survey uncovered three ways college enrollment leaders can improve their recruitment strategy (and support) for today’s students.
1. Application behavior is shifting back to pre-pandemic times
In 2021, Naviance students submitted 6.2 million college applications – 400K fewer applications than pre-pandemic levels, which isn’t surprising given the high degree of uncertainty that students were facing at the time. This year, the class of 2022 ushered in a return to pre-pandemic levels, submitting more than 6.6 million applications. This was coupled with increases in the average number of applications submitted by each student, as seen in the chart below.
Despite this increase in overall application volume, fewer students were interested in applying under Early Decision. In 2022, Regular Decision was the most popular application type, accounting for 55% of Naviance student applications. This continued a four-year trend of Regular Decision being the most popular option.
Additionally, fewer students were interested in applying out-of-state. While the overall number of out-of-state applications increased, fewer unique students submitted them during the last enrollment cycle, signaling that more students are considering staying closer to home.
2. Students are concerned about affordability and career readiness
The rising cost of college has long been a growing concern for students and their families. This concern persisted among the entering class of 2022, as seen in the chart below. Not only did 69% of respondents indicate that “cost of education” was important in their decision (along with 59% of respondents selecting “financial aid/scholarships”), 78% also indicated that they plan to work at least part-time while in school. This suggests that to varying degrees, students will need supplemental funds – beyond a scholarship package – to make ends meet.
Majors and career options are also top of mind for today’s students. This year, 87% of respondents indicated that their primary reason for heading to college was to pursue a particular career path, with majors ranking as the number one factor influencing their college decision. First-generation students, however, were more likely to be undecided about their college plans. As of May, 10% of first-gen students in the Class of 2022 were undecided about their postsecondary plans compared with 4% of their non-first-gen peers. They were also less likely to apply to and enroll in college when compared to non-first-generation students.
3. Students need more help discovering their strengths and interests
Naviance continues to be a popular research tool for college-bound students. More than 70% of respondents valued Naviance for helping them apply to colleges, discover their strengths and interests, and explore career options with over 77% valuing the ability to research their college options.
Increase in value rating compared to the Class of 2021
However, with 47% of respondents indicating a desire for more support discovering their strengths and interests and 40% wanting more support with exploring career exploration, there is still work to be done in making sure that students are prepared for and see the value in a college education. One key tactic for addressing these support gaps and ensuring that a smaller share of students are undecided about their plans by the end of senior year is to encourage them to start earlier.
Get insights from the 2022 Naviance student survey
Watch our on-demand webinar to learn more about what Naviance students in the Class of 2022 had to say about their college search journey.