CSUN Most Popular College Application Choice Among LAUSD Seniors, Study Finds

  • CSUN students walking around campus in the first week of the spring 2019 semester.

    File photo by David J. Hawkins.

A recent research study found that California State University, Northridge was the most popular four-year college application choice for Los Angeles high school seniors.

The “L.A. Unified Students’ Pathways to College: Four-Year College Application Patterns” study was conducted by the Los Angeles Education Research Institute and was released in late 2018. The institute and Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) surveyed 17,200 seniors from the Class of 2017 in LAUSD high schools about their experiences during the college application process.

Notably, the study found that the 10 most popular four-year colleges were all public, in-state colleges in the California State University (CSU) or University of California (UC) systems.

Among these 10 colleges, CSUN ranked highest, with 32 percent of those surveyed applying to the university.

CSUN is an attractive local choice because of its excellent programs and the diversity visible on campus, said Juana Maria Valdivia, director of CSUN Student Outreach and Recruitment. The research institute study was the first large-scale effort to quantify LAUSD students’ university application preferences, Valdivia said.

“We have programs that stand out,” Valdivia said. “There’s Cinema and Television Arts, kinesiology, business, psychology — those are really popular at CSUN.”

The university’s community appeal is also apparent, with visitors frequently noting the ethnic diversity and friendliness of the campus, Valdivia said.

CSUN and other CSU and UC schools are popular, as the institute’s research suggests, because they are more accessible to applicants with low incomes, who make up most of the district’s enrollment. CSU and UC campuses make registration fee waivers available to students in low-income households, encouraging LA students to apply to more colleges without the financial burden of expensive application fees.

Compared to other CSUs, CSUN may have an added edge because applicants do not have to pay an intent to register fee during application, Valdivia said.

“A great percentage of our students struggle financially,” Valdivia said. “How could you expect a student to pay $100 — up to $600 to confirm their intent to register if they’re applying to more schools — to secure a spot in a college?”

Students from the Los Angeles area indicated an overall enthusiasm toward higher education. The Los Angeles Education Research Institute found that 52 percent of LAUSD seniors applied to four or more colleges, a much higher percentage compared to the 21 percent of all students nationally.

CSUN freshman Austin Villarreal, who attended North Hollywood High School, said he applied to the university for its affordability, not only in terms of application fees and tuition but also in terms of living costs.

“It’s [at a] driving distance so I don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on housing,” he said.

A good reputation for its programs also led Villarreal to apply to CSUN among other colleges and universities. “It’s an overall good school when it comes to the opportunities it offers. I’ve been definitely enjoying my time here,” he said.

CSUN’s continued recognition by national organizations such as the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and trade publications such as The Hollywood Reporter will continue to make the university attractive to a wide range of students.

“We have outstanding programs, and the kids know it,” Valdivia said.

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