Your First College Year Survey

 Office of Institutional Research

Mary Ann Weaver

August 2003

 

Introduction and method

 

In April of 2003, all first-year students were asked to complete the Your First College Year (YFCY) Survey.  This survey is part of a national study conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute to provide valuable information on the academic, social, and personal development of first-year college students.  It is designed as a follow-up survey to the annual Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey that is administered at the beginning of their first year.

 

We received responses from 198 of the first-year students, which comprised 61% of the class.   The gender ratio of the respondents (43% male and 57% female) was similar to the gender ratio of the class. 

 

This report includes comparative data to the first-year students in 2002 as well as data from other private four-year colleges. 

 

Most of these students (173) took the CIRP survey during New Student Week.  The data was matched to the YFCY data and those comparisons are included in this report.

 

Results

 

A summary of the results of this survey is contained in this report.  Responses are categorized under Effects, Self-Ratings, Satisfaction, Future Concerns and Plans, and Supplemental Questions.  The Supplemental Questions are unique to Earlham and therefore do not contain comparisons to other colleges.

 

Effects

 

The CIRP survey reported activities engaged in by students in the year prior to coming to college.  The YFCY survey then asked the students how often they had engaged in these same activities during their first-year of college. 

 

Table 1 shows the percentage of students who participated in various activities or felt a certain way and the percentage change from the prior year.  This data is compared to responses from students from other four-year colleges as well as Earlham students who entered in Fall 2001.

 

Table 1

 

Activity

Earlham Students

Students from other 4-year colleges

Student who entered Fall 2002

Students who entered Fall 2001

Students who entered Fall 2002

%

The year before college

% During first year of college

% Change from prior year

%

During first year of college

% Change from prior year

%

During first year of college

% Change from prior year

Attended a religious service

78

59

-19

51

-24

60

-25

Participated in organized demonstrations

46

63

18

52

-1

42

-5

Smoked cigarettes*

8

12

5

12

2

9

3

Drank beer

52

56

5

69

17

59

11

Drank wine or liquor

56

71

15

77

12

63

9

Felt overwhelmed by all you had to do*

32

38

6

39

4

40

10

Felt depressed

8

14

6

12

0

12

4

Discussed politics*

44

45

2

39

-8

21

2

Socialized with someone of another racial/ethnic group*

74

72

-2

78

3

57

-11

Discussed religion*

40

26

-14

39

-3

23

-9

 

*Percentage responding “frequently” only.  All other results represent the percentage responding “frequently” or “occasionally”

 

As in the prior year, there was a smaller percentage of students who attended a religious service during their first year at college compared to the year before they came to college.  This was true for both Earlham students and students from other four-year colleges.   Also, fewer students discussed religion during their first year at college compared to the year prior to college. The percentage change from prior year for Earlham students entering in Fall 2002 was much more pronounced than the change seen for the students entering in Fall 2001 for this activity. 

 

Another significant change that occurred during the first year of college was an increase in the percentage of students drinking wine or liquor.  Students from other four-year colleges reported a greater change in percentage who drank beer rather than wine or liquor.  The first-year students that were surveyed last year also reported a greater increase in drinking beer. 

 

How did the first-year students spend their time?

 

Table 2

Time spent during a typical week…

0-5 hours

6-15 hours

16-30 hours

Over 30 hours

Attending classes/labs

4.6

47.6

47.1

.5

Studying/homework

23.3

49.7

25.9

1.1

Socializing with friends

14.2

47.6

28.2

9.9

Exercising or sports

62.3

31.9

4.7

1.0

Partying

79.1

17.2

2.6

1.0

Working on campus

67.3

30.0

5.3

1.1

Working off campus

92.5

6.4

1.1

0

Participating in student clubs/groups

91.0

8.9

0

0

Watching TV

97.9

2.1

0

0

Reading for pleasure

92.7

6.3

1.0

0

Playing video/computer games

94.2

3.6

1.5

.5

Praying/meditating

96.8

2.6

0

.5

Surfing the Internet

82.7

14.1

3.1

0

Communicating via e-mail

84.3

12.6

2.6

.5

 

The way first-year students spend their time has not changed significantly from what they reported in 2002.   As can be expected, the majority of students spend much of their time attending classes or studying.  The survey also revealed that there are few students who spend much time watching TV.  In fact, 58% of Earlham students reported watching no TV.  There are also few students interested in spending leisure time on the computer.  While 9.9% of the students indicated that they spend over 30 hours a week socializing with friends, this was a slight decrease compared to last year’s class where 14.8% reported the same.

 

How do these statistics compare with students from other colleges?  Only 14.4% of the first-year students at other private four-year colleges reported watching no TV. Their time spent attending classes and studying was very similar to the Earlham data.   Time spent studying differed only in the 16-30 hours category where 25.9% of the Earlham first-year students spent that much time studying and only 12.5% of the first-year students at other private four-year colleges reported the same.

 


Data in Table 3 indicates that Earlham students are more likely than students from other colleges to speak up in class and to frequently discuss course content with students outside of class.  Earlham students are also more likely to turn in course assignments late.  There is a significant difference in the percentage of Earlham students who turn in course assignments that did not reflect their best work compared to students from other colleges.  The data indicates that this class of Earlham students has less interest for sports, as 31% of them reported that they frequently participated in intramural sports compared to 41% of the students who entered Earlham in Fall 2001 and were surveyed in the Spring of 2002.

TABLE 3

Percentage of students who frequently…

Earlham

Other private 4-yr colleges

%

%

Turned in course assignments late

35

17

Spoke up in class

48

34

Discussed course content with students outside of class

59

41

Skipped class

44

32

Received tutoring

22

23

Worked with a professor on a research project

22

18

Used the Internet for research or homework

72

83

Turned in course assignments that did not reflect your best work

62

42

Participated in intramural sports

31

30

Had difficulty getting along with your roommate

33

30

Sought personal counseling

12

8

 

Table 4 shows the percentage of students who reported “frequent” inclusion of certain activities in the courses they took during their first year at college.  Based on student responses, it is clear that Earlham courses include much more opportunity for group discussions than other private college courses.  Student presentations and performances as well as labs are also slightly more likely to be part of an Earlham course.  It is not very likely that Earlham students will be required to have on-line interaction with the professor or classmates.

 

Table 4

Frequently included these in courses

Earlham

Other private 4-yr colleges

%

%

Group discussions

80

47

Student presentations or performances

26

21

Formal lectures

51

51

Research projects

18

20

Multiple drafts of written work

28

36

Group projects

27

19

Weekly essay assignments

25

29

Student evaluations of each other’s work

6

13

Field experience or internship

5

5

Community service linked to coursework

5

5

Student-selected topics

16

10

Laboratory component

28

20

Required on-line interaction with professors and/or classmates

10

16

 

Students were asked how often they interacted with various groups of people.  A higher percentage of Earlham students (40%) reported having at least weekly contact with faculty outside of class or office hours compared to 25% of students from private four-year colleges.  Another 47% of Earlham students reported having at least one meeting a week with faculty during office hours compared to 30% of students from other four-year colleges.  Twenty-four percent of Earlham students reported interacting daily with “other college personnel” compared to only 10% of students from other colleges.  Earlham students were less likely to be in contact with their families daily.  Thirty-four percent of students from other colleges had daily contact with their family compared to 11% of Earlham students.


Table 5

Since entering college, have you…

% Earlham students

% Students from other 4-year colleges

Decided to pursue a different major

39.3

28.8

Changed your career choice

33.0

28.3

Participated in varsity/intercollegiate athletics

31.4

24.4

Taken a college course or seminar specifically designed to help first-year students adjust to college

26.2

52.3

Declared your major

17.8

44.8

Enrolled in a formal program where a group of students takes two or more courses together

8.9

10.3

Enrolled in an honors course

7.3

11.8

Enrolled in a remedial/developmental course

1.6

3.9

Joined a social fraternity or sorority

0.5

7.7

Transferred from another institution

0.5

2.4

 

 

Since entering college, 39% of Earlham first-year students have decided to pursue a different major compared to 29% of students from other colleges.  About the same percentage of students have changed their career choice.  Since Earlham students are not required to declare their major until the end of their sophomore year, it is not surprising that only 18% of the first-year students declared their major.  This compares to 45% of students from other colleges.  Other colleges had a much greater percentage of students who took a college course or seminar specifically designed to help first-year students adjust to college.  Fifty-two percent of those students took such a course compared to 26% of Earlham first-year students.  With the advent of the new General Education requirements at Earlham, this will change beginning with next year’s class.

 

 

Self Ratings

 

During New Student Week, students were asked to rate their abilities, skills, and health on the CIRP survey.  At the end of the first year of college students were asked to rate these same items.  Table 6 shows the percentage of students who rated themselves “above average” or “highest 10%” compared with the average person their age.  

 

Table 6

 

Self Ratings

Earlham Students

Students from other 4-year colleges

Students who entered Fall 2002

Students who entered Fall 2001

Students who entered

Fall 2002

%

The year before college

%

During first year of college

% Change from prior year

%

During first year of college

% Change from prior year

%

During first year of college

% Change from prior year

Academic ability

77

71

-6

74

-4

64

-6

Artistic ability

39

37

-2

48

2

30

2

Computer skills

25

32

7

28

4

40

8

Emotional health

51

49

-2

60

9

55

2

Leadership ability

56

58

2

58

-4

61

0

Mathematical ability

30

35

5

31

0

40

-1

Physical health

54

54

0

53

0

54

-2

Public speaking ability

42

40

-2

47

4

38

3

Self-confidence (intellectual)

66

67

1

64

3

58

2

Self-confidence (social)

46

48

2

58

9

49

3

Self-understanding

68

74

6

72

7

58

5

Writing ability

58

56

-2

62

2

52

5

 

It appears that Earlham students modestly improved their computer skills and understanding of self during their first year in college, which was also true of students from other four-year colleges.  It was surprising that Earlham students rated their mathematical abilities as higher after one year at college whereas students from other four-year colleges rated their writing ability higher.

Students were asked to indicate if their skills had improved compared with college entry.  Table 7 shows their responses.

TABLE 7

Percentage of students who noted “much stronger” skills compared with college entry

Earlham

Other private 4-yr colleges

 

%

%

General knowledge

17

17

Analytical and problem-solving skills

10

11

Knowledge of a particular field or discipline

38

24

Critical thinking skills

10

13

Knowledge of people from different races/cultures

21

15

Religious beliefs and convictions

4

10

Ability to get along with others

10

14

Library/research skills

7

10

Ability to work as part of a team

5

9

Understanding of the problems facing your community

14

7

Understanding of national issues

20

13

Understanding of global issues

26

15

 

The greatest increase in skills was noted in their knowledge of a particular field or discipline and understanding of global issues.  Both of these increases were higher than those from other private colleges.

In an effort to determine feelings of success at various aspects of their transition to college, students were asked to rate their success.  It appears that most Earlham first-year students are adjusting successfully to college life.  As would be expected, most students (71%) felt completely successful at developing close friendships with other students.  They also understand what their professors expect of them academically and are adjusting to the academic demands of college.  They are somewhat less successful at getting to know faculty, utilizing campus services available to them and developing effective study skills.  Based on the data in the Table 8, 14% of the first-year students are struggling with managing their time effectively.

Table 8

 

Since entering Earlham, how successful have you felt at…

% Who feel unsuccessful

% Who feel somewhat successful

% Who feel completely successful

Mean Score

Developing close friendships with other students

3.1

25.1

71.7

2.69

Understanding what your professors expect of you academically

.5

53.4

46.1

2.46

Adjusting to the academic demands of college

5.2

47.6

47.1

2.42

Getting to know faculty

6.9

57.7

35.4

2.29

Utilizing campus services available to students

5.2

64.4

30.4

2.25

Developing effective study skills

6.8

68.1

25.1

2.18

Managing your time effectively

14.2

64.2

21.6

2.07

Rating scale:  1=Unsuccessful; 2=Somewhat successful; 3=Completely successful

Comparisons can also be made as to objectives that the students considered to be essential or very important upon entering college and after one year of college.  The following table shows the percentage of students who considered these objectives to be “essential” or “very important”.

Table 9

Objective considered to be “essential” or “very important”

Earlham Students

Students from other 4-year colleges

Entering in Fall 2002

Entering in

Fall 2001

Entering in

Fall 2002

%

The year before college

%

During first year of college

% Change from prior year

%

During first year of college

% Change from prior year

%

During first year of college

% Change from prior year

Becoming an authority in my field

38

48

10

57

4

68

9

Influencing social values

51

54

3

63

7

50

8

Helping others who are in difficulty

67

77

10

78

7

76

9

Making a theoretical contribution to science

16

14

-2

20

3

16

1

Creating artistic work

26

33

7

43

12

21

6

Developing a meaningful philosophy of life

64

71

7

77

9

49

9

Helping to promote racial understanding

48

61

13

67

4

40

9

Becoming a community leader

34

33

-1

43

NA

37

4

Integrating spirituality into my life

47

49

2

49

NA

51

6

 

After one year at Earlham, a greater percentage of students consider most of these objectives to be very important or essential.  First-year students at Earlham are less concerned with becoming an authority in their field than students from other colleges.  They are more concerned with developing a meaningful philosophy of life and helping promote racial understanding.  The percentage of first-year students who consider helping others who are in difficulty as a very important or essential objective has increased after one year at Earlham.


Satisfaction

 

The survey asked students to rate their satisfaction with various parts of their college experience.  Table 10 indicates that 79% of the Earlham first-year students rated their overall college experience as ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’.  It appears that Earlham first-year students are more satisfied than students from other colleges with all aspects of college life. Earlham faculty members have been more successful than faculty at other colleges in making the coursework relevant to everyday life and to the students’ future.

 

TABLE 10

Percentage of students who noted they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with…

Earlham

Other private 4-yr colleges

 

%

%

Amount of contact with faculty

79

74

Opportunities for community service

67

54

Relevance of coursework to everyday life

68

54

Relevance of coursework to future

70

66

Overall quality of instruction

83

76

Overall sense of community among students

71

67

Overall college experience.

79

74

 

 

Students were asked to rate their satisfaction with other aspects of the campus.  The percentage of students who indicated they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ is shown in Table 11.

TABLE 11

“Satisfied” or “Very Satisfied” with…

Earlham

Other private 4-yr colleges

 

%

%

Classroom facilities

87

80

Library facilities/services

85

78

Computer facilities

84

77

Recreational facilities

80

67

Orientation for new students

69

62

Student health center/services

66

53

Academic advising

58

63

Tutoring or other academic assistance

57

64

Financial aid services

56

51

Student housing facilities

36

51

Psychological counseling services

28

43

There is a smaller percentage of Earlham students who are satisfied with housing facilities compared to students from other colleges.  The Earlham students, however, were more satisfied with their recreational facilities and with library facilities and services than students from other colleges.  Compared to last year’s first-year students, these students are less satisfied with psychological counseling services.

The YFCY Survey attempts to determine students’ social and emotional adjustment to college.  The responses relating to those questions can be seen in Table 12.

Table 12

Since entering college, how often have you felt…

Frequently or Occasionally

Mean Score

Earlham students

Students from other 4-year colleges

Earlham students

Students from other 4-year colleges

 

%

%

%

%

Courses inspired you to think in new ways

92.6

77.5

3.3

3.0

Social life interfered with college

68.1

48.6

2.8

2.4

Lonely or homesick

47.1

46.5

2.5

2.4

Worried about meeting new people

34.6

37.4

2.2

2.2

Worried about your health

31.9

24.9

2.1

1.9

Isolated from campus life

28.3

30.7

2.0

2.1

Job responsibilities interfered with college

33.0

23.3

2.0

1.8

Intimidated by professors

24.7

26.0

1.9

2.0

A need to break away from family

28.8

33.6

1.9

2.1

Unsafe on campus

5.8

8.2

1.9

1.5

Family responsibilities interfered with college

14.1

16.6

1.6

1.7

 

Rating scale:  1=Not at all; 2=Rarely; 3=Occasionally; 4=Frequently

 

First-year students at Earlham were more likely than students at other four-year colleges to be inspired by their courses to think in new ways.  Sixty-eight percent of Earlham’s first-year students reported that their social life frequently or occasionally interfered with their schoolwork compared to 48% of the first-year students from other four-year colleges. A smaller percentage of Earlham first-year students felt unsafe on their campus than students at other four-year colleges.

When asked if they would still choose to enroll at Earlham if they could make their college choice over, 40% said they definitely would.  Another 45% said they probably would.  Only 1.6% said they definitely would not choose Earlham if they had to do it over compared to 6.3% of students at other four-year colleges.

 

Future Concerns and Plans

 

A college education is costly and often students are concerned about their ability to finance their college education.  Fifteen percent of Earlham first-year students had major concerns about financing their education and were not sure if they will have enough funds to complete college.  Nineteen percent of students at other four-year colleges had the same major concern.  About 47% of Earlham students had some concern about finances but they felt they probably would have enough to finish college.  Forty percent of these students were confident that they would have sufficient funds.

 

Ninety-three percent of the first-year students plan to attend Earlham again in the Fall of 2003.  This compares to 91% of the first-year students from other colleges indicating expectations of returning to the same college.

 

Supplemental Questions

 

We chose to add supplemental questions to this survey.  We wanted to determine the student’s perception on various items.  We continue to be committed to academic excellence and therefore we are interested in learning about students’ perception of the level of academic challenge at Earlham.  Also of interest to us was their opinion on the level of institutional support for various activities and facilities on campus.   And as part of our assessment of how well we are serving our students, we inquired about their satisfaction with specific facilities and services on the Earlham campus. 

 

First-year students’ perception of academic challenge at Earlham indicates that it is ‘somewhat high’ based on the mean score shown in Table 13.   Only 10% of these students felt the level of academic challenge was below what is appropriate.

 

Students were asked their opinion about the level of institutional support for various campus activities.  The most popular response given by first-year students was that institutional support was “appropriate” for all the activities listed.  Thirty-two percent of these students, however, felt that the institutional support for varsity athletics was either too high or somewhat high.  An additional 20% felt that institutional support for student organizations was too high or somewhat high.

According to the mean scores of the student responses shown in Table 13, artistic activities are most lacking in institutional support.  Musical activities, residence life facilities, theatrical activities and intramural and club sports also received less than appropriate institutional support according to these first-year students.

 

Table 13

 

Characteristic

Too high

Somewhat high

Appropriate

Somewhat Low

Too low

Mean

 

%

%

%

%

%

 

Level of academic challenge

6.3

35.4

48.1

9.0

1.1

2.6

                  Level of institutional support for…                           

Varsity athletics

14.2

18.0

47.5

15.3

4.9

2.8

Student organizations

1.1

18.9

61.6

14.6

3.8

3.0

Intramural and club sports

1.7

8.8

53.6

28.7

7.2

3.3

Theatrical activities

1.1

9.8

46.7

29.3

13.0

3.4

Residence life facilities

0.0

9.0

45.2

33.5

12.2

3.5

Musical activities

0.5

9.8

44.6

28.8

16.3

3.5

Artistic activities

1.1

9.8

31.0

29.3

28.8

3.8

Scale:  1=Too high, 2=Somewhat high, 3=Appropriate, 4=Somewhat low; 5=Too low


The first-year students rated many additional characteristics.  The most popular responses have been highlighted in Table 14.  The mean score is also calculated using the rating scale shown below Table 14.

 

First-year students appear to be very satisfied with the quality of athletic facilities and the personal attention that was given to students.  They rated their adherence to the Principles and Practices fairly high.  Their rating of their peer’s adherence to the Principles and Practices, however, is somewhat lower. 

 

According to these students, the characteristics that may need some improvement include access to cultural and recreational opportunities in Richmond and the regional area.  Other areas rated lower than “good” were effectiveness of the roommate agreement, maintenance and housekeeping responsiveness to Residence Hall problems, and the level of support in Residence Halls to work through conflicts.

 

The students seemed to be satisfied with the quality of the personal connections they have experienced and with the quality of their overall experience beyond the classroom.  It is encouraging to note that there is a very good chance of these students recommending Earlham to a friend or family member. 


Table 14

 

Characteristics

Excellent

Very Good

Good

Fair

Poor

Mean

 

%

%

%

%

%

 

Quality of athletic facilities

38.5

34.2

21.4

3.7

2.1

2.0

Quality of recreational facilities

15.9

30.7

34.9

12.2

6.3

2.6

Chance to be with students from different backgrounds

20.1

29.1

33.3

15.3

2.1

2.5

Availability of interdisciplinary academic programs

12.0

36.4

41.8

9.8

0.0

2.5

Availability of academic majors

9.1

37.4

41.7

9.6

2.1

2.6

Availability of academic support

12.9

29.6

48.9

7.0

1.6

2.6

Personal attention to students

20.7

38.3

30.9

8.0

2.1

2.3

Quality of college-planned social activities

7.4

25.9

43.9

13.8

9.0

2.9

Access to cultural opportunities in Richmond and regional area

0.0

6.6

33.3

41.0

19.1

3.7

Access to recreational opportunities in Richmond and regional area

0.0

5.0

30.9

44.8

19.3

3.8

Opportunities for involvement in College Governance

1.7

20.6

60.0

15.0

2.8

3.0

The student conduct system

3.8

21.4

51.6

16.5

6.6

3.0

Level of your peers’ adherence to the Principles and Practices

4.3

19.0

40.8

25.5

10.3

3.2

Level of YOUR adherence to the Principles and Practices

16.2

34.6

33.0

11.4

4.9

2.5

Level of support in Residence Halls to work through conflicts

4.3

26.3

42.5

19.4

7.5

3.0

Effectiveness of the “roommate agreement”

8.2

14.1

34.8

22.8

20.1

3.3

Maintenance responsiveness to Residence Hall problems

7.5

17.1

36.9

27.8

10.7

3.2

Housekeeping responsiveness to Residence Hall problems

6.4

19.8

39.6

25.1

9.1

3.1

Quality of the personal connections you have experienced

32.1

37.4

23.5

5.9

1.1

2.1

Quality of your overall experience beyond the classroom

22.5

39.6

27.3

10.7

0.0

2.3

Value for the cost to your family

10.8

23.1

45.2

17.7

3.2

2.8

Chances of your recommending Earlham to a friend or family member

31.5

32.1

25.5

8.2

2.7

2.2

Scale:  1=Excellent; 2=Very good; 3=Good; 4=Fair; 5=Poor