A survey by an eastern Iowa educational research firm finds three-out-of-four high school sophomores are already seriously looking for colleges — and they’re using the Internet for the hunt. Steve Kappler, executive director of consulting for Stamats of Cedar Rapids, says kids are launching their college searches much earlier now and in greater numbers than just a few years ago.
Kappler says: "I think it’s because of the ‘helicopter parents’ who’re really pushing towards making sure they get themselves ready for school and are looking at schools earlier. Mom and Dad, they’re sort of pushing them into that aspect of things." The Stamats survey found 76-percent of teenagers rated their parents as the major influence when it comes to college decision making, with guidance counselors a distant second.
Kappler says parents are clearly becoming more hands-on. Kappler says: "They’re much more involved than they have been in years past and they don’t necessarily tell their child where they’re going to go but what we find is, parents will tell them where they’re not going to go. They’ll pick some schools and say, ‘You know what? You’re not going there,’ but they won’t make the decision for them." He says most college-bound high school sophomores will have a list of ten or 15 colleges they’re considering.
Kappler says it’ll usually be the major players, like the University of Iowa or Iowa State, then there will be a group of schools they’ve talked about with friends and family. By junior year, when they’ve taken their ACT and SAT college entrance exams, he says they’ll have narrowed down the list to ten schools. They’ll usually apply to six or seven colleges by the time they hit their senior year — and then it’s time for the big decision.
Kappler says the Internet has radically changed the search process, as many colleges report the first contact they’ll have with a student is when their application is sent in. He points to social networking websites like MySpace or Facebook. "Facebook in particular has groupings by school," Kappler says,"you get into these groups, you can ask certain questions about the school, you can talk to students that are there. They’re finding out all this information about the school, but the school has no idea who they are or where they’re coming from — and then all the sudden they apply. It’s really much different from a marketing perspective than what we’ve seen even as short as five years ago."
The research finds most sophomores plan to travel far away to pursue a higher education, but finds only 11-percent of seniors actually applied to colleges that were more than four hours from home. For more on the survey, visit www.stamats.com .