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Parents rank ND as No. 4

Ann Marie Jakubowski | Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Parents listed Notre Dame as the No. 4 “dream school” for their children in the Princeton Review’s annual “College Hopes and Worries” survey, marking the second consecutive year the University has held that place.

The Princeton Review website states “dream colleges” are schools parents wish their child could attend if cost and admission were not contributing factors, and the 2013 list ranks Notre Dame behind Stanford University, Harvard University and Princeton University.

Students ranked their own top-10 dream colleges in a different list, and Notre Dame was not included in that set.

University spokesman Dennis Brown said the admissions department takes such rankings “with a grain of salt” due to differences in methodology, but this one reflects Notre Dame’s unique appeal to parents.

“I think that [the ranking] reflects the basic tenets of the University: a commitment to undergraduate education, a sense of community and an ongoing commitment to faith and religious identity,” Brown said. “The combination of things that Notre Dame offers … is unusual in a lot of different ways, and some parents take comfort in that.”

Notre Dame is the only religiously-affiliated school on either list, and Brown said the University’s dual emphasis on faith and academics is ideal for many interested families.

“For people whose faith is important to them, the fact that you can come to a place like Notre Dame and practice your faith, … yet still at the same time get a world-class education, is crucial,” Brown said. “You can be a part of a broader University community that will pay dividends throughout your life in terms of the alumni network and the bonds created in the residence halls.”

Robert Mundy, director of admissions, said it is “hard to predict” whether the ranking will affect Notre Dame’s future applicant pools, but trends in the past decade have shown parents are becoming more involved in their children’s college selection processes.

“Students are ultimately making the decisions, but the influence of the parents has increased,” Mundy said. “Whether it’s generational or financial or due to another factor, parents are getting more actively involved in where [their children] apply and actually attend.”

Mundy said comparing the parents’ impressions of a university to those of their children can be an interesting and informative way to interpret such a ranking.

“Your parents’ impressions or expectations about your college experience are a little different than your own impressions, and I saw that clearly as I looked through the rest of the Princeton Review survey results,” he said. “It’s all about looking for different things, which depends on which role you’re speaking from. … There’s no disputing that parents have a different view [than students].”

Notre Dame’s policies on aspects such as dorm life and parietals are seen differently by parents and students, Mundy said, and this may have contributed to the discrepancies on the two Princeton Review lists.

“I really do believe that the nature of the Notre Dame family strikes a chord with the parents, and that’s clearly tied to our mission,” Mundy said. “Things like that appeal to parents in a different way than they appeal to students.”

While he said there is no way to determine what the ranking will mean for Notre Dame’s popular perception and future applicant pools, the parents’ increased influence on their students’ college decisions make this “good news all around.”

“Obviously, the students are the ones who sit down for dinner every night with their parents, and if they have a positive impression [of Notre Dame] in their minds, that can affect them either apparently or subliminally,” Mundy said.

Brown said such rankings serve as “good starting points” for prospective parents and their students but are not weighted heavily in the admissions office.

“College surveys are of some use, but people who are serious about their college choice are going to dig in deeper,” he said. “While we’d rather be ranked than not, at the same time we recognize that they’re … just a starting point.”