College Type Preference

When students register for the ACT, they can indicate the type of college that they prefer to attend. In general, the students’ college type preference is a good indicator of the type of college that they eventually attend.

Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Prefer to Attend Different College Types by State ACT Participation Rate, 2012

  • Regardless of state ACT participation rate, the majority of ACT-tested students prefer to attend a public 4-year college.
  • The percentage of ACT-tested students who prefer to attend a 2-year college increases with state ACT participation rate.
  • With the exception of states that administer the ACT statewide, the percentage of ACT-tested students who prefer to attend a private 4-year college decreases as the state ACT participation rate increases.
Chart showing Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Prefer to Attend Different College Types by State ACT Participation Rate, 2012

Graph reads: 70% of the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2012 in states administering the ACT statewide prefer to attend a public 4-year college.

State ACT Participation Rate2-YearPublic 4-YearPrivate 4-Year
Less than 26%2%67%30%
26%–50%6%71%23%
51%–75%9%77%15%
76%–100%13%77%10%
Statewide (100%)15%70%15%

Note: Based on 86% of ACT-tested high school graduates for whom college type preference is available. Percentages within state ACT participation rate category may not sum to 100 due to rounding.


Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Prefer to Attend Different College Types by ACT Composite Score, 2012

  • As ACT Composite score increases, the percentage of students who prefer to attend a 2-year college decreases.
  • Conversely, the percentage of students who prefer to attend a private 4-year college increases as ACT Composite score increases.
  • The percentage of students who prefer to attend a public 4-year college peaks at an ACT Composite score range of 20–23 and then declines as the ACT Composite score continues to increase.
  • Only in the ACT Composite score range of 33–36 do the majority of students prefer to attend a private as opposed to a public 4-year college.
Chart showing Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Prefer to Attend Different College Types by ACT Composite Score, 2012

Graph reads: 3% of the high school graduating class of 2012 who earn an ACT Composite score in the range of 24–27 prefer to attend a 2-year college.

ACT Composite Score Range2-YearPublic 4-YearPrivate 4-Year
1–1524%69%7%
19–1914%76%10%
20–237%77%16%
24–273%73%24%
28–321%62%37%
33–360.2%44%56%

Note: Based on 86% of ACT-tested high school graduates for whom college type preference is available. Percentages within ACT Composite score range may not sum to 100 due to rounding.


Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Prefer to Attend Different College Types by Parent Education Level, 2012

  • Within each parent education level, the majority of ACT-tested students prefer to attend a public 4-year college.
  • As parent education level increases, the percentage of ACT-tested students who prefer to attend a 2-year college decreases.
  • In contrast, the percentage of ACT-tested students who prefer to attend a private 4-year college increases with parent education level.
Chart showing Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Prefer to Attend Different College Types by Parent Education Level, 2012

Graph reads: 29% of the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2012 who have at least one parent with a graduate degree prefer to attend a private 4-year college.

Parent Education Level2-YearPublic 4-YearPrivate 4-Year
No College17%73%10%
Some College13%75%12%
Bachelor's Degree6%75%19%
Graduate Degree4%67%29%

Note: Based on 80% of ACT-tested high school graduates for whom college type preference and parent education level are available. Percentages within parent education level may not sum to 100 due to rounding.


Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Prefer to Attend Different College Types by Degree Plans, 2012

  • A clear majority of ACT-tested students who plan to obtain an associate’s degree or an undergraduate certificate prefer to attend a 2-year college.
  • Conversely, the majority of ACT-tested students who plan to obtain a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree prefer to attend a public 4-year college.
  • As degree aspirations increase, so does the percentage of ACT-tested students who prefer to attend a private 4-year college.
Chart showing Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Prefer to Attend Different College Types by Degree Plans, 2012

Graph reads: 4% of the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2012 who plan to obtain a graduate degree prefer to attend a 2-year college.

Degree Plans2-YearPublic 4-YearPrivate 4-Year
Less Than Bachelor's Degree63%34%3%
Bachelor's Degree8%80%13%
Graduate Degree4%71%25%

Note: Based on 84% of ACT-tested high school graduates for whom college type preference and degree plans are available. Percentages within degree plans may not sum to 100 due to rounding.