On ‘Ivy Day,’ college hopefuls hear from Harvard, Princeton — but here’s the school more students want to attend

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March 30 is “Ivy Day,” when many Ivy League schools release those long-awaited admissions decisions.

More than ever, acceptance into the Ivy League is considered highly desirable; however, when it comes to this year’s ultimate dream school, Massachusetts Institute of Technology comes out on top, according to a recent survey of college-bound students and their families by The Princeton Review.

The colleges that ranked the highest on students’ wish lists are “perennial favorites,” according to Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief. They are also among the most competitive: MIT’s acceptance rate is just under 4%; at Harvard, it’s about 3%.

Coming out of the pandemic, a small group of universities, including many in the Ivy League, have experienced a record-breaking increase in applications this season, according to a report by the Common Application.

The report found application volume jumped 30% since the 2019-20 school year, even as enrollment has slumped nationwide.

“There’s a subconscious consensus that it’s only worth going to college if you can go to a life-changing college,” said Hafeez Lakhani, founder and president of Lakhani Coaching in New York. 

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For students who don’t get in to their top choice, use this opportunity to revisit other schools or consider transferring down the road, advised Eric Greenberg, president of Greenberg Educational Group, a New York-based consulting firm. “Realize that you are really making a one-year commitment.”

This can also serve as an important lesson for future applicants, according to Christopher Rim, president and CEO of Command Education. “It’s not just about having top grades and test scores,” he said.

Decision letters from top schools are a reminder of the importance of crafting a balanced college list, honing their interests to convey a singularity of focus, and starting early in the process.

National College Decision Day is only weeks away

Now, students have just a few weeks to figure out which college they will attend ahead of National College Decision Day on May 1, as well as how they will pay for it. 

Most college-bound students and their parents say affordability and dealing with the debt burden that often goes hand in hand with a college diploma is their top concern, even over getting into their first-choice school, according to The Princeton Review’s 2023 College Hopes & Worries survey.

A whopping 98% of families said financial aid would be necessary to pay for college and 82% said it was “extremely” or “very” necessary, The Princeton Review found.

“Financial aid is more a necessity now than ever,” Franek said.  

Don’t just look at the sticker price

“Never cross an expensive school off of your list of consideration based on sticker price alone,” Franek said. Consider the amount of aid available, since private schools typically have more money to spend.

“Many of those schools are giving out substantial scholarships — this is free money.”

For example, even though MIT is among the nation’s priciest institutions — tuition and fees, room and board and other student expenses came to more than $79,000 this year — it also offers generous aid packages for those who qualify.

Last year, the average annual price paid by a student who received financial aid was less than $20,000, according to the school. 

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