March 21, 2005

College Searching Online

Girls lead the way in using the internet to hunt for colleges and other schools.

Fully 45% of American adult internet users and 57% of online teenagers have used the internet when they search for colleges or other schools to attend. Older teenage girls are the most likely to do this: 79% of online teenage girls ages 15-17 have used the internet to search for schools or colleges.

Surveys of adults in January and of teenagers last fall show that many internet users know they can find information online about the schools they are scouting for themselves or family members. In both surveys, it is the first time that the Pew Internet & American Life Project has asked this question directly in its ongoing tracking of internet use, so there are not previous data to use to compare these findings to the past.

Here are some of the statistical findings:

From survey of teenagers – survey conducted October 26 – November 28, 2004 of 1,100 persons ages 12-17 with a margin of error of plus or minus three points. The question was: “Please tell me if you ever go online to get information about a college, university, or other school you are thinking about attending.”

  • 87% of teenagers who are ages 12-17 say they use the internet. That represents about 21 million people.
  • Of those internet users, 57% say they have gone online to get information about a college, university, or other school they are thinking about attending.
  • 61% of all the online girls ages 12-17 have used the internet to get information about schools, compared to 53% of boys.
  • 79% of the online girls ages 15-17 say they have gotten information about schools, compared to 70% of the boys in that age cohort.
  • The likelihood that an online teen has used the internet to search for college or other schools goes up with age: 27% of the 12-year-old internet users have done this, compared to 85% of the 17-year-olds (high school juniors or seniors).
  • Interestingly, there is no significant difference between teens with broadband and teens with dial-up connections on this internet activity.

From survey of adults – conducted January 13 – February 9, 2005 of 2,201 persons ages 18 and older, including 1,421 internet users. The internet sample has a margin of error of plus or minus three points. The question was: “Do you ever use the internet to get information about a college, university or other school you or another family member is thinking about attending?”

  • 66% of American adults (those 18 and older) are internet users. That represents about 134 million people.
  • Of those adult internet users, 45% have gone online to get information about a college, university, or other school they are thinking about attending or which other members of their family are examining. On an average day online, 4% of internet users (or about 5 million people) are going online to find out about schools they are scouting.
  • In the case of online adults, there is no notable gender difference in this activity. Men and women are equally as likely to have done searches about schools they are thinking about attending.
  • 61% of online adults ages 18-29 have done this internet activity, compared to 42% of those online ages 30-49, 43% of those online ages 50-64 and 20% of those online 65 and older.
  • 46% of online parents with children under 18 living at home have looked online for schools to attend for themselves or another family member, compared to 33% of non-parents.