13 fast facts about today’s college students

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13 fast facts about today’s college students

As the traditional path to college shifts, so do the demographics, skills, and future goals of today’s college freshmen, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education’s (CHE) 2017 Almanac.

CHE’s Almanac pulls from the annual Freshman Survey, conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)’s Higher Education Research Institute.

The survey’s respondents included more than 137,400 full-time freshmen students enrolled in 184 four-year institutions in the United States. UCLA researchers gathered and analyzed responses on a number of topics and were able to identify key characteristics of today’s first-year student.

We rounded up 13 fast facts from their survey about today’s college freshmen:


1: The majority of respondents identify as white

  • Two-thirds of students identify as white;
  • 19% of students identify as Latino;
  • About 13% of students identify as Asian; and
  • 13% identify as African-American.

2: About one in five students are the first in their family to attend college

  • 19% of students are first-generation, while 59% of students have at least one parent with a college degree.

3: Many students identify as “middle-of-the-road” on political issues

  • Just 42% identify as politically moderate, whereas about one-third of students identify as liberal and one fifth of students identify as conservative; and
  • Only four percent of students identify as far left, while two percent identify as far right.  

4: Here’s the breakdown of respondents’ sexual identity

  • Over 90% of students identify as heterosexual;
  • About 4% identify as bisexual, while 1% identify as gay; and
  • Less than one percent of students identify as lesbian or transgender.

College Preparedness

5: Most students have taken an Advanced Placement (AP) course in high school

  • Only 18% of students did not take any AP classes, while 6% of students reported that their school did not offer any AP classes; and
  • 45% took up to four AP courses, while a quarter of students took up to nine.

College Search Process

6: Most students apply to more than one college

  • More than half of students applied to between one and five colleges, versus 28% who applied to between six and ten; and
  • On the far ends of the spectrum, seven percent of students applied to 11 or more colleges, while 11% of students only applied to one.

7: Although almost three quarters of respondents were accepted to their first choice, just over half of students enrolled in their first choice

  • About 75% of students were accepted by their first choice but just 57% of students enrolled in their first-choice school; and
  • About 27% are at their second choice and 10% are at their third-choice school.

8: When asked what constitutes a “very important” reason to attend college, most students identified interest in career success and building knowledge

  • Four out of five students consider job prospects and learning about things that interest them as very important reasons to attend college;
  • 78% consider training for a specific career as a very important reason;
  • Three quarters of students cite gaining an appreciation for ideas as a very important reason; and
  • About 73% of students cite making more money as a very important reason to attend college.

9: When asked what factors played “very important” roles in their college choice, more than half of students identified interest in an institution’s academic reputation or alumni employment history

  • 65% of students considered their college’s academic reputation as very important, whereas 55% considered alumni career success as very important; and
  • About 47% of students cite the cost of attendance as very important, while 47% identify financial assistance as a very important factor.  

Expectations of college and the future

10: Here’s how much respondents expect to pay for first-year college expenses

  • A little over a third of students expect their family to contribute $10,000 or more to their first year;
  • More than 80% of students plan to contribute less than $3,000 of their own income; and
  • More than half of students cite having some level of concern about their ability to pay for college.

11: Here’s how much students expect to receive in financial aid

  • For aid that does not have to be repaid, 44% of students expect to receive less than $3,000 and about one third expect to receive more than $10,000; and
  • For aid that does need to be repaid, more than half of students expect to receive less than $3,000, while 13% expect to receive more than $10,000.

12: More than half of students expect to have a “very good chance” of voting or getting a job during college

  • Over 60% of students expect to vote at the local, state, or national level;
  • About half of students expect to get a job or participate in student groups; and
  • Less than half of students expect to regularly communicate with professors or do community-service.

13: When asked what future goals they considered “very important,” students expressed interest in financial success and helping others

  • More than 80% of students hope to be financially well off, while 78% plan to help others; and
  • About 59% value improving their intercultural awareness, while 58% hope to become an authority in their field.

(Chronicle of Higher Education, 9/22).

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