Health & Family

Countdown to College: Stress intense as admissions ‘March Madness’ unfolds

We’re all familiar with the college basketball brackets, but there’s another March Madness that’s even more palpable for high school seniors and their families.

They are all anxiously awaiting notifications from colleges. Stressful is an understatement – just ask any parent of a senior.

The Princeton Review ( just released its annual “College Hopes & Worries Survey,” and the numbers confirm just how stress-inducing the college admissions process has become.

The annual poll interviewed 12,000 students and parents and reports that 73 percent report “application stress is higher than ever,” a 17 percent increase over the 56 percent who reported such stress levels in the survey’s initial year, 2003. Students reported higher stress levels than parents. Additionally, 90 percent of respondents said financial aid will be “very necessary” to pay for college.

The popular colleges just continue soaring in popularity, and the likelihood of being accepted becomes increasingly more challenging. According to the survey, for the third consecutive year, Stanford was the college that both applicants and parents most often named as their “Dream College.” Last year Stanford rejected 95 percent of its applicants.

Here’s the list of the top 10 “dream colleges” for students: 1) Stanford University, 2) Harvard College, 3) New York University, 4) Columbia University, 5) University of California-Los Angeles, 6) Yale University, 7) Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 8) Princeton University, 9) Cornell University, 10) University of Pennsylvania.

It has been another crazy year of applications. UCLA received over 92,000 freshman applications – the most in the country. It’s almost unbelievable that any college or university can process that many applications.

Other interesting factoids: 87 percent estimated their degree to cost “More than $50,000.” Within that cohort, 42 percent said “More than $100,000.” I think we can guess why 90 percent said financial aid will be very necessary to pay for college.