Data Dive: Popular Colleges for High School Class of 2014

We surveyed more than 315,000 Niche seniors at nearly 50,000 high schools, and here’s what the data revealed.

Note: The Niche user base tends to skew more toward higher-achieving students, so their top colleges and standardized test scores will be above the national average.

Top 10 Most Popular Colleges for the Class of 2014

Niche Overall Grade
1A+University of Texas - AustinAustinTX33,128Public
2A+University of California - Los AngelesLos AngelesCA27,365Public
3A+New York UniversityNew YorkNY21,247Private
4A+Georgetown UniversityWashingtonDC7,283Private
5A+University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesCA17,619Private
6A+Vanderbilt UniversityNashvilleTN6,731Private
7A +University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaPA10,324Private
8A+Yale UniversityNew HavenCT5,393Private
9A+University of GeorgiaAthensGA24,496Public
10A+University of MiamiCoral GablesFL9,979Private

Top 10 Most Popular Majors for the Class of 2014

2Pre-Medicine Studies
7Business Management
8Registered Nursing (RN)
9Physical Therapy
10Political Science and Government

Other trends discovered from this data dive:

1. Business is the most popular prospective major across the board.

This is noteworthy data considering a recent piece from Businessweek, which showed that across all academic disciplines, the major that saw the biggest salary increase was business. Are high school students becoming more informed and heading where the money is? Or is the improving economy making students braver when it comes to working in business fields?

2. Differences between public and private high schools – Average SAT/ACT scores of Niche users:

Public High School
Private Religious HS
Private Non-Religious HS
SAT Math606609649
SAT Verbal602618650
SAT Writing600619654
ACT Math262628
ACT English272829
ACT Reading272829
ACT Science262628

Among Niche users, we found a statistically significant difference between SAT/ACT scores of students at public high schools versus students at private non-religious high schools, with students scoring lower at public high schools.

3. All students seem to be considering the same high-profile (and expensive) schools.

The University of Southern California is No. 4 in the Niche ranking of Schools with the Highest Tuition. While both Yale University and University of Pennsylvania are both Ivy League schools, they are also in the top 25 Niche schools where it’s Hardest to Get In.

4. Humanities majors are not all that well-represented when it comes to the top 10 majors students are considering.

The humanities crisis has been in the news recently, especially with the report “The Heart of the Matter,” which calls for an increased “investment in research and discovery” when it comes to humanities academic disciplines.This Niche data supports recent progressions toward STEM majors and study, as highlighted in this Inside Higher Ed article that states: “The data suggest a clear national trend away from the humanistic disciplines toward those that seem to offer a different kind of promise or outcome: a vocational utility or practical applicability.”

5. Yet, the humanities disciplines seem to be more valued by students attending private institutions.

Communications and English majors both appear in the top 10 prospective majors for high school seniors at both private religious and private non-religious high schools, whereas neither major appears in the top 10 prospective majors for public high school seniors.

Public High School
Private Religious High School
Private Non-religious High School
Pre-Medicine StudiesPre-Medicine StudiesPre-Medicine Studies
Registered Nursing (RN)Business ManagementEnglish
Business ManagementPolitical Science and GovernmentPolitical Science and Government
Physical TherapyCommunicationsBusiness Management
Psychology & CounselingEnglishCommunications

Despite college tuition and expenses being the highest they’ve ever been, it doesn’t seem to be deterring class of 2014 students from considering some of the most selective and expensive schools in the country, with University of Texas Austin costing significantly more for out-of-state students than in-state students. Recognizable college names are meaningful to Niche users, with 48 percent of those surveyed reporting that it’s “extremely important” in their college search.