2000 HEDS Senior Survey 

Qualitative Report

Prepared July, 2002, by Mary Ann Weaver and Marissa Pine

In the spring of 2000 an invitation to participate in a senior survey was issued to all seniors.  The survey instrument used was designed by the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS).  The report provided by HEDS gives comparative data from our peer institutions.  We have attempted to summarize such aspects as the seniors'  future plans and expectations, an evaluation of their undergraduate experience,  information on their undergraduate work experience and their finances. 

The 109 Earlham seniors who responded represented 45% of the senior class.   More than half (70%) of the respondents were female.  The majority (99%) ranged in age from 21 to 24.  Most all of them lived in college housing, though 23% lived off campus within walking distance of the campus.  They participated in many activities while at Earlham.  A large percentage (73%) performed some volunteer service and many were involved in some sort of performing art.  More than half of them participated in intercollegiate or intramural athletics.  The majority of the respondents were white, although several other ethnicities were represented in the sample. 

Most of these students come from educated families with 80% of their mothers and 84% of their fathers having at least a bachelor's degree and  many of the fathers having doctorate degrees.  Families in which parents had earned a high school diploma or less comprised 8% of respondents. 

Future Plans

Students were asked about their plans for the upcoming fall.  The majority of the seniors indicated they were planning on working.   Fifteen percent have already accepted a position, while the others will be searching for a job during the summer.  Earlham responses were similar to those from our peer group institutions.

Only a small percentage of these seniors (11%) anticipated attending graduate school in the fall.  Though some have already been accepted to the school of their choice, seventy-six percent of the seniors said they had not applied to any type of school.  This may be the result of students waiting until closer to graduation (possibly after comps) to decide where to apply for graduate school and what they want to do.  For those who were planning on going to graduate school in the fall, their fields of study included architecture design, biological sciences, physical science, education, fine or performing arts, language studies, and business.  These responses are similar to those from our peer group institutions though there was a higher percentage of students from the peer group who have applied for admission to an MA or MS program (39% of peer group compared to 25% of Earlham students).

Regardless of their fall plans, thirty-four percent of students plan on pursuing a Ph.D. sometime in the future and sixty-one percent will seek a Master’s degree.  This compares favorably to our peer institutions where twenty-four percent planned on pursuing a Ph.D.   Nineteen percent of the peer group indicated an interest in either a medical or law degree compared to twelve percent from Earlham. 

Students were asked to rank the importance of various career expectations.  It is essential or very important to most of these students (87%) to pursue a career that is intellectually challenging.  Many of them (63%) also want to feel they are working to promote social change.  The strong majority of the students felt that being interested in the day-to-day work involved and the opportunity to be creative and exercise initiative were essential or very important in considering a career.  The social recognition or status of a career was less important to these students, as was a career requiring a long-term commitment.  The amount of  training beyond college that is required of a career is not important to them.  This would possibly reflect their desire to be “life-time learners”.  While most of the Earlham student responses were very similar to students from other institutions, it was somewhat more important for students from other institutions for a career to have a high income potential, provide for a secure future,  and have social recognition or status.  It was somewhat more important for Earlham students to be working for social change and to have limited working hours that allow time for other activities.

Education and social sciences/services were the most popular career choices for these students when they entered Earlham.  A high percentage of seniors anticipate that their first job after leaving Earlham will be within the teaching profession or  working in social services.  When compared with our peer group institutions, there was a much greater percentage of Earlham students interested in careers in social work.  Students from other institutions were anticipating jobs in business or finance. 

When it came to long-term career goals, seven percent of the Earlham seniors would like to teach at a college and twelve percent would like to teach in another capacity.  Seniors at peer institutions indicated careers in education,  business and law as their long-term goals.


Evaluation of Undergraduate Experience

The overwhelming majority of Earlham seniors who responded to this survey were satisfied with their undergraduate education at Earlham.  Forty-nine percent were very satisfied compared to thirty-six percent of the seniors from peer institutions.  Most of the Earlham seniors would choose Earlham again, and only one percent of them indicated they definitely would not choose Earlham again.  This compares to six percent of students from other schools who felt they would not choose the same institution again.

Ninety-six percent of the Earlham respondents indicated the average grade they received during their college career overall was a B or better.  Twenty-eight percent have an average grade of A in their major compared to seventeen percent of students at other schools.

Seniors were asked about their satisfaction with various services or aspects of their college.  Earlham seniors were very satisfied with their opportunities for study off-campus or abroad.  They also appreciated having the opportunity to do independent study and/or research.  The majority of them indicated they were very satisfied with faculty availability and faculty attitude which compared favorably with our peer institutions where a smaller percentage felt the same.  Over half of the Earlham respondents were either very satisfied or generally satisfied with Humanities, Arts, Science, Math and Social Sciences.  The biggest differences between the Earlham seniors and seniors from other schools related to their satisfaction in student voice in college policies. Only 56% of the seniors from peer schools were satisfied or very satisfied with student voice in college policies compared to 74% of Earlham seniors.  Earlham also had a higher percentage of students who were satisfied with the religious/spiritual life on campus, career services, and campus safety/security.  About half of the Earlham seniors were generally dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with ethnic/racial diversity on campus.  The senior respondents from other peer institutions were somewhat more satisfied with their food service than the Earlham students. 

Most of the Earlham students feel they can write more effectively as a result of their Earlham education.  They also feel their analytical thinking ability has been enhanced.  They are more aware of social problems which may account for their increased interest in careers in social services.  Most of them indicated their communication skills have been moderately or greatly enhanced and that they have improved their ability to acquire new skills and knowledge on their own.  Only three percent feel their ability to relate well to people of different races, nations, and religions have not been enhanced compared to ten percent of the seniors from peer institutions.  It is alarming that twelve percent of Earlham students feel their ability to use quantitative tools such as statistics and graphs was not at all enhanced by their undergraduate experience and that fifteen percent of seniors at our peer schools indicated the same.  Earlham seniors rated their enhanced ability to read or speak a foreign language higher than seniors from peer schools.

Undergraduate Work Experience

Most Earlham seniors worked up to fifteen hours a week as did seniors from peer institutions, however there was a greater percentage of students from peer institutions who worked twenty hours or more (19%) compared to Earlham students (8%).  The vast majority of this work was performed on-campus for both Earlham students and those from other schools.  


An issue that many students face while attending Earlham is finding resources to pay their tuition and housing costs.  Earlham attempts to provide healthy financial aid packages, but sometimes it is not enough.  Twenty-one percent of seniors receive no loans to aid them while at Earlham. Of those who do receive aid, eighty-three percent have loans that they will have to repay. 


These data provide us with one perspective on the characteristics, experiences, and future plans of our graduating seniors.  As is often true of Earlham graduates, these seniors have become interested in working for social change.  They have a desire to help others who are in difficulty and to develop a meaningful philosophy of life.  Keeping up-to-date with political affairs and helping promote racial understanding were also very important to these students.  During their time at Earlham, they were very satisfied with faculty availability and faculty attitude. This speaks favorably of our institution. 

But questions remain.  Why did some of these seniors indicate they would definitely not choose Earlham again?  Why were over half of the Earlham seniors generally dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with ethnic/racial diversity on campus?  And why did only a small percentage of these seniors anticipate attending graduate school in the fall? 

Comparisons to our peer institutions have revealed significant differences in some areas and similarities in others. 

As we attempt to interpret the data presented in this report, it is to be hoped that it will result in ideas for ways to improve our educational practices so as to further enhance the development of Earlham students.

Created by Mary Ann Weaver
July, 2002