The 2012 Freshman Survey
by Christian Perticone - Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 Admissions & Acceptance

Tell me about yourself. When you’re filling out college applications, schools pepper you with different permutations of this question. Can you briefly recount your most meaningful experience? Who or what matters most to you? How do you handle adversity? Why does diversity matter in your life?

Is it any surprise that a new study shows, “First-year students indicating that they frequently felt “overwhelmed by all I had to do” during their senior year of high school increased from 28.5% in 2011 to 30.4% in 2012.”

While colleges have plenty questions, far less frequently, if at all, do they ask what you expect them to deliver. If they did ask, would you be in a position to answer? Maybe not until they promised to let you in.

You may very well get a chance to voice your demands during the first two weeks of class next fall. Nearly two-hundred thousand freshly admitted first-time students have an opportunity to express their expectations every year in response to a survey administered by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP), which is part of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. Virtually all schools participate in the survey because they do in fact want to know what you think. 2012’s results were released this month, in the eight-five-page document titled, The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2012

Do these stats reflect your expectations?

“Continuing to rise is the importance of going to college in order to get a better job, which rose two percentage points this year to an all-time high of 87.9%, up from 85.9% in 2011 and considerably higher than its low of 67.8% in 1976”

“In a related item, only 59.3% of incoming first-year students are attending their first choice institution. This is a significant change from the 1970s and 1980s, when approximately three out of four students were attending their first-choice institution.”

“The vast majority (84.3%) of incoming first-year students believe that they will graduate from college in four years. This will likely only come true for approximately half of them.”

Though maybe your expectations are geared towards the students who will share classes and dorm rooms with you? Although colleges and universities are supposed to be very liberal environments, most freshmen report being “middle-of-the-road” politically.

“Of the ten social and political issue questions we asked on the 2012 survey, support for legalizing same-sex marriage has the highest rate of agreement among incoming college students.”

“Support for giving preferential treatment in college admissions to students from disadvantaged backgrounds increased from 2008 to 2012. Over forty percent of incoming students endorsed this position in 2012 (41.9%).”

Who do you want to be when you grow up? Medicine seems to be a more popular career path than Law.

“19.3% conceive of themselves as pre-med and 6.3% consider themselves pre-law.”

What do the potentially successful students have in common?

“In 2012, students are more frequently asking questions in class (57.3%), and at the same time, accepting their own mistakes as part of the learning process (56.3%). Both of these habits are regarded as essential indicators that learning is occurring and that students are engaged and reflective in thinking about what they know.”

The survey results are maybe unsurprising. Incoming students view college as an investment. They would like to graduate within four years. Professional track careers seem like safe bets. You know the facts just as well as the colleges do. Even in the current economic climate, the prospect of college encourages high, yet attainable, expectations. Right?


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1 Comment

  1. Stella says:

    January 18, 2008This is an interesting dcsiussion, one that in many ways sounds like the conversation I have been having with myself inside my head as I have been wrestling with the possibility of using my digital ethnography insights to consult with marketers. Originally I found the idea repulsive. Now I embrace it as a wonderful possibility for helping to heal the broken corporate/consumer relationship. There is a long history of companies duping consumers. As consumers have become wiser, so have the marketers. The duping has become ever more insidious and covert with lifestyle branding and embedded advertising. But in the midst of this are more and more voices within marketing like those of Stephen, seeking to build a better, transparent, honest, and open relationship with consumers and it seems that social media holds a remarkable potential to enable this kind of relationship. There are many pitfalls along the way new possibilities for duping etc. but that is precisely why people like me *should* use our insights to help marketers. As we all know, advertising actually produces a great deal of our cultural values, ideas, and ideals. A better culture of advertising will mean a better culture for everybody.

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