If for some zany reason you ever decide to slog your way the very helpful set of data at the College Board’s college search website, you can make all kinds of interesting discoveries.
Take the College Board’s lists of “also viewed” schools. When you are at the webpage for, say, Loyola University Chicago, you can see a list of the 20 schools most commonly viewed by other students who also looked at Loyola. It’s an interesting way to see how applicants at various schools overlap.
People who look at Loyola, for example, frequently view DePaul University — a Catholic school also in Chicago — and Northwestern — a Big 10 school in the next town over.
When you look at each of these overlap lists for, say, several hundred schools, you find that the same schools constantly pop up again and again on the “also viewed” lists. Several are exactly the ones you’d expect to remain popular year after year. Harvard comes up a lot because it’s Harvard. A million kids fantasize about going there and two million parents fantasize about attending graduations there. A few more hardy perennials that aren’t terribly surprising include, for example, Penn State, Arizona State, and the University of Southern California.
Other schools that persistently show up on the “also viewed” lists are fascinatingly harder to explain. They seem to be, for whatever reasons, the hot schools of the moment.
American University (Washington, D.C.)
Acceptance rate: about 44 percent
Possible reason why it’s a hot school right now: Location, location, location. Both Georgetown and George Washington — two other schools in the District — are permanent fixtures on the list of sought-after undergraduate destinations. Applicants could be falling in love with the idea of going to school in Washington and looking around to see what else is in town.
Clemson University (Clemson, S.C.)
Acceptance rate: about 63 percent
Possible reason why it’s a hot school right now: The Southeast is the new Northeast. Students and parents en masse are starting to notice that there are some illustrious academic powerhouses in the South. The weather is balmier, the cost of living is cheaper, and in many cases the job prospects look substantially rosier. Emory, Vanderbilt and the University of Virginia are a few other the schools getting greater national consideration.