Archives reveal little change in college choices

by John Musso
May and June are as equally filled with warm weather and spring festivities as they are with talk and excitement of college plans. Each class in the high school’s history has had decorated students attending the world’s premier universities, but this is obviously only a small percentage. Most graduates tend to favor certain schools, both in state and out, with trends varying slightly.

Information about college attendance from past senior classes can prepare underclassmen for their own college searches and the application process.
The following data are from graduating classes starting in 2000 (2004 and 2006 information was unavailable).
Most Popular In-State Colleges
Rutgers University, Union County College, Kean University, Montclair State University, and The College of New Jersey are the five most popular New Jersey colleges.
Attendance at Rutgers spiked in 2005 and then declined in 2006. Guidance counselor Candace Kilmer credits this to economics as well as the academic caliber of those classes. “2006 was a very strong class academically, so many attended schools other than Rutgers,” she said.
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Most Popular Out-of-State Colleges
The top five most popular colleges in a 300-mile radius are Boston University, Drexel University, The Pennsylvania State University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Delaware. The closest of these schools is Drexel University at 86 miles, and the farthest is Boston University at 238 miles.
Penn State is the most popular among these schools, appearing eight times in the top-five ranking of out-of-state schools. The University of Maryland is the second-most popular, appearing seven times, followed by the University of Delaware at six times, and Boston University and Drexel both at three times.
Many NJ students leave their home state for college, more so than students from any other state. This trend reflects the fact that there are relatively few colleges in New Jersey compared to its dense population. NJ high school graduates tend to be higher achievers in measures of academic success than do students from other states, making them attractive applicants to out-of-state schools. Also, because NJ is a small state in area, many students are eager to leave to experience life in different places.
Senior Amanda Rimpici, who will be attending Penn State in the fall, is eager to live in a new state. “From day one I wanted to get out of New Jersey. I wanted something different, a change of pace. I’ve had a good time in Jersey, but it’s time to move on,” said Rimpici.
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Public vs. Private In-State Colleges
While the percentage of alumni attending all in-state colleges has been constant over the last decade at approximately 40 percent, the percentage of alumni attending public in-state schools compared to private in-state colleges has increased from 61.4 percent in 2001 to a high of nearly 85 percent in 2012.
“When the economy was, for a lack of a better word, difficult, about three years ago, I definitely saw an increase in public, in-state schools. Now that the economy is getting better and jobs are coming back I’m seeing more and more students wanting to go to private schools,” said guidance counselor Suzanne Wojcik, a six-year veteran in the counseling department.
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