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May 2012 Future Plans Survey
Introduction, Research Methods, and Response Rates

This series of reports presents findings from the May 2012 Future Plans Survey conducted at NC State University. The survey is designed to collect specific information on students' plans following graduation, including detailed information on employment, graduate/professional school attendance, and participation in career-preparation activities while at NC State. This introductory report provides background on the project, which was administered for the first time in December 2010, and an overview of the research methods. A separate report, May 2012 Future Plans Survey: All Respondents, provides overall results, and the College Comparisons report provides results broken down by the college from which the respondent graduated. Select summaries on results by academic department within college are also available in the Department Summaries reports. Finally, a copy of the questionnaire is also available online.

Survey Background

The Future Plans Survey is a collaborative effort between NC State's Office of Institutional Planning and Research office (UPA) and the Career Development Center (CDC, formerly the University Career Center). Career service offices in various colleges, specifically the Poole College of Management, and the Colleges of Textiles, Design, and Agriculture and Life Sciences, also provided critical support for the project.

Historically the CDC and the college career service offices used various means to collect information from NC State's seniors on their 'future plans' at the time of their graduation. While these diverse strategies provided useful information for some units, without a systematic, centralized process for collecting information it was difficult to get a good picture of the future plans for NC State graduates as a whole. In addition, rather than having individual units using their resources to collect information from their respective students, centralizing the project in UPA provided a more efficient and cost-effective mechanism for both administering the survey and providing reports on the results. To accomplish these objectives UPA developed and administered the pilot Future Plans Survey in December 2010. Based on experiences with and feedback on the pilot survey, the survey was revised for the May 2011 administration, and again slightly revised for the May 2012 administration.

Research Design

Throughout the 2010 Fall semester, UPA worked with CDC and the college career service offices to develop an overall research design and questionnaire that would meet the individual needs of the CDC and colleges as well as that of the University as a whole. The Future Plans Survey is intended to be administered semiannually, coinciding with December and May graduation. In addition, UPA also administers a modified version of the survey in early Fall as a follow-up to the December and May surveys for the previous academic year. Specifically, the "Survey of Recent Graduates" is geared towards December/May survey respondents who said they were intending on finding full-time employment but had not done so by the time they completed the survey, as well as to those who had said they were uncertain of their plans. Those who did not participate in the December/May Future Plans Survey are also invited to participate in the follow-up Survey of Recent Graduates.

UPA is solely responsible for preparing the survey for online administration, identifying the survey population and sending email invitations and reminders about the survey to students as appropriate, collecting and analyzing the data, and preparing and distributing reports on results.

The population for the December and May Future Plans Surveys are identified using NC State's Application for Degree file. All undergraduate students who have applied to graduate as of about five days prior to graduation day are included in the population. The online survey goes live about two weeks prior to graduation day, and is scheduled to close two to six weeks after graduation. (Given the winter holidays, the December survey has a longer post-graduation field time.) The May 2012 Future Plans Survey was in the field from May 3, 2012 through June 1, 2012, with commencement being held on May 12.

On May 3 all students who as of that day had applied to graduate were sent an email invitation from the director of the CDC. The first follow-up reminder email was sent from the director of the CDC to all non-respondents on May 7, and the second from individual career counselors in the CDC and the college career service offices to their specific constituents on May 10. On May 15, 2012 a third follow-up email reminder was sent from individual College Associate Deans to the non-respondents from their respective colleges. The final reminder was sent from "NC State University," over the name of the Associate Director for Survey Research, to non-respondents on May 23, about one week before the survey closed. Copies of the invitation and four follow-up reminders are available online. In addition to the emails sent by UPA, UPA also encouraged various administrators in the colleges and departments (e.g., Associate Deans for Undergraduate Programs, College and Department Coordinators for Advising) to contact their students directly. Some students, therefore, might have received additional requests to participate in the survey.

Response Rates

As of May 9, 3,209 students had submitted the online Application for Degree and appeared on target to graduate on May 12, 2012. A total of 1,807 of them participated in the Future Plans Survey, for an overall response rate of 56 percent. Participation in the survey, however, varied by college, ranging from a high of 66 percent in the the College of Textiles to a low of 41 percent in the College of Education. As a result, the College of Agriculture and Life Science is underrepresented in the overall results, as their December graduates make up about 22 percent of all May 2012 graduates and only 19 percent of the survey respondents. The College of Engineering is overrepresented in the overall results, with their students making up only 20 percent of the May 2012 population but 23 percent of the survey respondents.

Table 1: Response Rate, Overall and by College

College/School May 2012
Percent of
Percent of
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences 697 21.7% 337 18.6% 48.4%
College of Design 102 3.2% 66 3.7% 64.7%
College of Education 156 4.9% 64 3.5% 41.0%
College of Engineering 659 20.5% 423 23.4% 64.2%
College of Natural Resources 151 4.7% 68 3.8% 45.0%
College of Humanities and Social Sciences 765 23.8% 414 22.9% 54.1%
College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences 125 3.9% 81 4.5% 64.8%
College of Textiles 133 4.1% 88 4.9% 66.2%
Poole College of Management 420 13.1% 265 14.7% 63.1%
DASA 1 0.0% 1 0.1% 100.0%
Total 3,209 100.0% 1,807 100.0% 56.3%
*The number of students who had applied to graduate in May 2012 as of May 9, 2012.

For more information on the May 2012 Future Plans Survey contact:
Dr. Nancy Whelchel, Associate Director for Survey Research
Office of Institutional Planning and Research
Box 7002
Phone: (919) 515-4184

Posted: July, 2012

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