Dream colleges are further out of reach financially: survey

As college education has become nearly expected in the job market, many high-school graduates are facing a pricey decision.

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College enrollment numbers in the United States may be falling, but many students are still considering higher education. So what goes into that type of decision?

Families and prospective college students visit the University of Mary Washington for the campus tour (iStock)

A recent survey by Lawnstarter dove into that exact question and, not shockingly, it was a variety of things.

The survey found determined that nearly 7 out of 10 students were getting accepted into their first-choice college and can actually attend.

It's not easy paying for college, which is evident with the increasing amount of student debt in America. In fact, the United States ranks second only to England for having the most expensive tuitions in the world.

Sadly, 93 percent of those surveyed said they could not attend their dream college due to their inability to afford college tuition. Nearly half of the respondents said they couldn't afford to attend any college their their top-choice school. Although scholarships help, only 23 percent of those surveyed said scholarships allowed them to go to school.

Besides the cost, there are lots of factors which influence students when they're choosing a college. Some try to apply to a variety of schools, including some they would consider a "safety school," as well as a "dream school."

However, experts warn students they shouldn't do this, as it might just set them up for disappointment. Instead, they recommend students only apply places they would actually want to attend.

Also, students should be wary of following a significant other to school. Young love can be wonderful, but when it comes to incurring student loan debt, it shouldn't be taken lightly. Interestingly enough, over one-third of all college relationships are long distance.

The study shows of those who followed their significant other to college, nearly half of them ended up transferring to another school.

College lasts several years, so it's important to check out the campus beforehand. The survey suggests that students who visit a college campus prior to attending have higher retention rates. More than three-fourths of students who visited a campus before attending ended up graduating from that college.

Touring doesn't have to mean hopping on a plane or riding in a car for a long time. Many colleges offer virtual tours that can give you the sense of the campus without setting foot on the quad.

According to the survey, student weigh several factors before making a final decision about a college. The leading contributing factor is still the university's academic prowess, but, its party school status still falls on the list of reasons to attend, per the survey.

Rounding out the second and third place of reasons students attend a certain college actually had to do with how 'nice' the campus is and if their family attended, or their 'legacy.'

While undergraduate education is important, what is more important is what you end up doing with your education.

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Not all colleges are created equal, but not all expensive schools are innately better than more affordable options.