Young Women Are More Likely Than Men to Aspire to College, and to Graduate

August 28, 2012

Female high-school students are more likely to aspire to attend college than are their male counterparts, and the young women enroll in college, persist, and graduate from it at higher rates as well, according to a report released on Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The report, "Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study," says that, in 2004, 96 percent of female high-school seniors wanted to go to college, compared with 90 percent of males. When female high-school graduates enrolled in college, they tended to do so immediately after high-school graduation; half chose a four-year institution.

Male high-school graduates made similar choices, but at lower rates. For example, while almost three-quarters of female students who enrolled in college did so immediately after high school, just over two-thirds of male students did. Slightly less than half of young men first enrolled in a four-year institution.

Young women also paid more attention to the college search while in high school, the report says. A greater share of female high-school students (80 percent) had "consulted college Web sites, publications, or search guides for information on college entrance requirements" than had males (68 percent). Among seniors in high school, women were more likely than men to reach out to college representatives for information.

Once in college, a higher percentage of women tended to stay enrolled and to graduate, according to the report. Roughly 60 percent of all first-time, full-time bachelor-degree-seeking students who started college in 2004 had earned that degree six years later from the same institution. A greater proportion of women had finished (61 percent) than men (56 percent). Female students across all racial and ethnic groups graduated at higher rates than did their male counterparts, with the biggest discrepancy among black students, the report says.

Women were also more likely than were men to receive financial aid—82 percent versus 77 percent—and to participate in a campus club during their first year, according to the report.