Considering the upheaval caused by the Supreme Court’s ruling against race-conscious admission, a NACAC poll provides needed insight into the student perspective of the college application process. 

Arlington, VA (August 24, 2023) – With student viewpoints largely left out of the national conversation on the college admission process, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) commissioned The Harris Poll earlier this year to gather and analyze the opinions and insights from more than 1,000 young adults on their experiences with applying to college. The poll revealed that students believe in the value of higher education, see diversity as essential to their higher education experience, and want to be seen as individuals in the college admission process.

The poll focused on understanding the perspectives of underrepresented students so the results could inform better practices in advancing equity in college admission, a recommendation in a Lumina Foundation-funded report called Toward a More Equitable Future for College Admission. This poll was also made possible through support from the foundation.

I’m amazed at how often we create admission policies and procedures for students without their input,” said Angel Pérez, NACAC CEO. “It’s time to center them in the process. If we really want to advance equity and access, student voices should guide us.”

The poll sought to assess students’ orientation toward higher education and the admission process, identify barriers and challenges for students, and gather input on practice and policy.

The poll of 16–22-year-olds revealed several key findings:

  • Nearly two in three (65%) believe earning a college degree is worth the cost.
  • Three-quarters of young adults (76%) believe student body diversity is absolutely essential for colleges.
  • More than half of young adults (58%) support race-conscious admission practices.
  • Nearly three-fifths (58%) did not apply to their dream school because they thought they would not be admitted.
  • Students tend to overestimate how selective colleges are on average and many equate selectivity with quality (62%).
  • Nearly seven in 10 young adults (68%) find it difficult to find unbiased information about colleges.
  • Seven out of 10 young adults (74%) believe there is a lot of bias involved in college admission decisions.
  • Young adults (52%) tend to be skeptical of test-optional and test-free policies.

The polling gauged experiences and opinions on several areas of the college search and admission process: planning for college, perception of the application process, support in the application process, personal admission consideration, interactions with admission offices, views toward the admission process, factors of consideration in admission decisions, and perceptions of selectivity.

The report includes analysis of student perceptions overall and disaggregated among white, Black, Hispanic, and Asian students. This allows for a better understanding of how underrepresented students view these issues.

“We’re going to be unpacking these results further over the coming months,” said David Hawkins, NACAC chief education and policy officer. “We will explore the report’s implications and seek ways to help institutions and policymakers center students’ perspectives in making the college admission process more equitable.”

Access the report

Research Method

The research was conducted online in the U.S. by The Harris Poll on behalf of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) among 1,010 U.S. residents between the ages of 16 to 22. The survey was conducted from February 17 to March 9, 2023.  Data are weighted separately by race/ethnicity where necessary to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population and combined using a post weight to create a grand total. For full research method information, please contact