The Top ‘Dream’ Colleges For Students

Princeton University

The Top ‘Dream’ Colleges for Students

The number one “dream” college for most students in the US is Harvard College.

The Princeton Review’s new 2024 College Hopes & Worries Survey polled over 10,800 college applicants and parents of applicants about their “dream” colleges, admission and financial aid concerns, perspectives on tests, and more.


Among the top five “dream” colleges for students were Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, and University of Michigan. While Ivy League schools dominated the list, a new non-Ivy’s were mentioned as well including the University of Michigan, University of Texas at Austin, and New York University.

  1. Harvard College (MA)
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. Princeton University (NJ)
  4. Stanford University (CA)
  5. University of Michigan
  6. Yale University (CT)
  7. University of Texas—Austin
  8. Columbia University (NY)
  9. New York University
  10. Brown University (RI)

Stress around college applications is high in students with 73% of respondents saying they have high or very high levels of stress during the application process. Moreover, debt is a major concern for many students, with 41% of respondents choosing the answer, “Level of debt to pay for the degree” as their main worry.

While many of the colleges on students’ list are prestigious, students actually cared more about “overall fit” and “career interests” when making a choice. 44% of respondents said fit was the most important when deciding on a college. Only 11% chose “College with the best academic reputation.”

“Only apply where you can see yourself,” one student respondent says.


Parents’ top five “dream” colleges for their children differed slightly from students in The Princeton Review survey. The top choices were MIT, Princeton, Harvard, and Stanford. In addition, both Duke University and Cornell University made the top list for parents, but not for students.

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Princeton University (NJ)
  3. Harvard College (MA)
  4. Stanford University (CA)
  5. Duke University (NC)
  6. University of Michigan
  7. Yale University (CT)
  8. New York University
  9. Cornell University (NY)
  10. Brown University (RI)

Distance from home was a key factor for parents as 48% of parent respondents said the “ideal” college would be “fewer than 250 miles.”


The Princeton Review’s 2024 survey was conducted online between January 15 and February 20 and polled a total of 10,867 people. 73% (7,935) were applicants to colleges and 27% (2,932) were parents of applicants. The survey featured 20 questions, nearly all of which presented multiple-choice answers.

Sources: The Princeton Review

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