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Top 10 Student Dream Colleges 2012

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Spring is in the air and acceptance letters have been received, which means that it’s time for college-bound high school seniors to make one of the biggest choices of their lives—where to attend college. Affordability is one of the main things that students and parents take into consideration when making The Decision,but what if cost were no option? Do you have any dream colleges?

Apply to Several Colleges

There is no magic number of applications to submit, but the College Board suggests students apply to five to eight institutions. These schools should be a mixture of safety colleges, schools with open or lenient admission policies; probable colleges, schools that the student has a fairly good chance of getting into; and reach colleges, which are the student’s top choices but less likely to accept the student due to prestige, popularity or very high standards. Local community colleges are a good example of safety colleges while state universities are a good example of probable colleges. Prestigious institutions like Ivy League colleges are a good example of reach colleges.

Applying to safety schools and probable schools means you’ll have a few colleges to “fall back on” should you not be accepted into the others.

Based on responses from 7,445 college applicants and 3,195 parents of applicants, The Princeton Review’s annual College Hopes and Worries Survey found that students’ top reach college for 2012 is Harvard

Harvard University | Cambridge, MA

while parents’ top dream college for their children is Stanford.

Stanford University | Stanford, CA

Students’ Top Dream Colleges

When asked which dream college they wish they could attend if acceptance and cost were not factors, students chose the following ten schools:

1. Harvard

2. Stanford

3. Columbia

4. New York University

5. Princeton

6. University of California—Los Angeles

7. Yale

8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

9. Brown

10. University of Southern California

Parents’ Top Dream Colleges

When asked which dream college they wish their child(ren) could attend if acceptance and cost were not factors, parents chose the following ten schools:

1. Stanford

2. Princeton

3. Harvard

4. University of Notre Dame

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

6. University of Pennsylvania

7. Cornell

8. Duke

9. Yale

10. University of Southern California

The Problem with Aiming Too High

You’ve most likely heard of the majority of these colleges and universities. You probably think that they’re all great schools due to their reputations or even their locations, but chances are, if asked specifics about them, you probably couldn’t answer too many questions correctly.

Teenagers and parents both tend to think big when considering dream schools. After all, they’re a fantasy—the school you’d attend if nothing got in the way. But Lynn O’Shaughnessy of The College Solution feels that lists of dream college lists show a bit of laziness, claiming that students and parents fall in love with brand names. That the prestige and stature of these sought-after colleges are the only reasons most teenagers would want to attend them—if it’s tough to get in and would look good on your resume, then the place must be worth drooling over!

Lynn also points out that schools on the East Coast and West Coast comprise these dream colleges lists while the Midwest is ignored, as is the South. Although for most people, dream colleges are just that—a dream—she advises students and their parents to dig a little deeper when researching potential schools. The United States is full of wonderful colleges with excellent affordable programs—colleges that might save you some anguish when you’re not accepted to Harvard or Stanford.

StateUniversity.com Top College Lists

Trying to figure out your safety, probable and reach colleges? Be sure to utilize StateUniversity.com’s Top College Rankings or search for schools by name. You can even estimate your chance of gaining admission with our Chance of Admission calculator located on each school profile.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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