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Look where top students are going to college

High-achieving students are much more likely to attend colleges farther away from their homes than other teenagers.

Teens who earned a high score on their SAT test (at least 2100 out of a maximum score of 2400) selected schools in recent years that were located an average of 526 miles from their homes. In contrast, students who earned low SAT scores ended up at schools less than 200 miles away.

These statistics come from a new study conducted by Niche (formerly known as College Prowler), which is one of the country's most popular college-related websites. Analysts at Niche looked at data that they collected from nearly 350,000 of their teenage users from 2012 to 2014 to determine the distances that students have been traveling to attend college. Niche also determined the percentage of students staying in their own states to pursue their bachelor degrees.

Here is breakdown by SAT ranges of the distances that students traveled for college:

SAT score range and miles traveled

2100 & higher, 526 miles

1800 - 2100, 325 miles

1500 - 1800, 231 miles

1200 - 1500, 192 miles

The vast majority of college students, who attend four-year institutions, stay close to home. In fact, there are three times as many students attending four-year colleges within five miles of their homes (seven percent of students) than there are teenagers who traveled at least 2,000 miles (two percent) for their schooling.

Choosing out-of-state colleges

The highest-achieving students were also significantly more likely to select schools outside their own states. Here are the percentages of students, grouped by SAT ranges, who decided to leave their states for college:

2100 & higher, 56 percent

1800 -2100, 40 percent

1500 - 1800, 29 percent

1200 - 1500, 24 percent

Higher-ed draws

As part of its study, Niche also released the names of the colleges that have enjoyed the greatest success in attracting students from the farthest distances. The No. 1 school in this category was Reed College, a highly intellectual liberal arts college in Portland, Ore., which produces a disproportionate number of eventual PhD's.

The other top schools are also notably distinctive in character: West Point (military academy), Stanford (elite institution in Silicon Valley), Rhode Island School of Design (prestigious art school) and Sarah Lawrence (specializes almost exclusively in small seminar classes).

In order, here are the colleges and universities that attracted undergrads from farthest away, along with the average distance its students traveled to attend:

Reed College (Ore.) 1,357 miles

U.S. Military Academy (N.Y.) 1,209 miles

Stanford University (Calif.) 1,095 miles

Rhode Island School of Design 1,085 miles

Sarah Lawrence College (N.Y.) 1,066 miles

Berklee College of Music (Mass.) 1,054 miles

Occidental College (Calif.) 1,018 miles

Harvard University (Mass.) 1,016 miles

U.S. Air Force Academy (Calif.) 1,014 miles

Colorado College 1,004 miles

While most families do not throw a wide net when exploring their college options, this can be a mistake. Parents often say that their children don't want to travel far for college or leave their state, but I believe that this desire to stay close for college is more likely to come from the parents and not the teenagers.

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