Carolina State University
2002 First-Year Student Survey:
Introduction, Methods, and Student Demographic Profile
This series of reports presents findings from the 2002 Entering First-Year Student Survey at NC State. Each year since 1972, students entering the Fall semester have been asked to participate in the survey. The survey is conducted during the New Student Orientation sessions held during the summer months prior to the start of the semester. Students entering into all 11 undergraduate academic units, including the Agricultural Institute and the First Year College, are included. Part of this survey contributes to the University of North Carolina General Administration's (UNC-GA) system-wide efforts to evaluate institutional performance.
This introductory report describes the survey's methodology and provides a demographic profile of survey respondents in comparison to the Fall 2002 first-year class. It compares gender, race/ethnicity1, and academic unit of survey respondents with the Fall 2002 first-year student population, and presents academic preparation statistics for first-year students. Reports with gender and racial/ethnic comparisons, as well as comparisons between colleges and departments within colleges, are available on the Web. In each report, summary statistics are presented for each survey topic, including student background characteristics, the application process, educational intent and interests, and goals for undergraduate education.
A total of 3,209 usable surveys were completed by enrolled and attending first-year students during New Student Orientation sessions. This figure represents 87.8 percent of the 3,653 first-year students who were still enrolled in classes 10 days into the Fall 2002 semester. No significant differences were found between respondents and the first-year class with respect to gender, race/ethnicity and college.
The data obtained from the first-year orientation sessions were analyzed using standard statistical methods. In analyses not presented in these reports, responses were tested to determine whether there were significant differences between women and men, between white, African American, and other minority students, and between the different colleges2.
Because the response rate is very high (87.8%) and the number of incoming students is large (3,653), the margin of error for these results is very low -- under one percent ( +.2) at a 95 percent confidence interval. That is, if 27.0 percent of the respondents say they were "very certain" of their college major, we can be 95 percent sure that the true figure would be between 26.8 percent (27.0 - .2) and 27.2 percent (27.0 + .2) if all first-year students had responded to the survey3. The margin of error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements for various subgroups, such as the separate figures reported for whites and African Americans, are less precise than statements based on the total sample. However, given the high response rate (e.g., 325 of 361, or 90.0% of African Americans responded to the survey), the margin of error even for small subgroups is very low (e.g., ± .5 at the 95 percent confidence interval for African Americans).
These reports attempt to provide a level of detail that makes the data more accessible and interpretable to the novice data user. A primary purpose is to highlight patterns found in responses to related question items or between comparison groups. Such consistencies among items or between groups are usually more important for understanding the data than are the sizes of the differences between individual pairs of ratings or ranks or, to some extent, whether the differences are statistically significant. While some individual small differences might be statistically significant, they may not be substantively meaningful. On the other hand, when even relatively small differences yield consistent patterns within a similar series of questions, the results are potentially more telling.
Demographics of the First-Year Class and Survey Respondents
Gender and Race/Ethnicity (Table 2-1)
There are no significant gender or racial/ethnic differences between the first-year students actually enrolled at NC State and those in the survey population. Women make up 42.1 percent of the first-year student population, compared to 41.3 percent of the survey respondents. White students make up 83.0 percent of the first-year student population, 9.9 percent are African American, and 7.2 percent are other minorities. Among survey respondents, 82.8 percent are white, 10.1 percent African American, and 7.1 percent other minorities.
Table 2-1: Demographics of First-Year Population and Survey Respondents
|First-Year Population||Survey Respondents||Response Rate|
|Native American|| 18
|African American|| 197
Note: Survey respondents are included in figures for the First-Year class.
Academic Units (Table 2-2)
Table 2-2 shows enrollment of first-year students and survey respondents by academic unit. Again there are no significant differences between the first-year students actually enrolled and those responding to the survey. The largest percentages of first-year students enrolled in the College of Engineering (28.6%) and First Year College (21.3%). The smallest percentages enrolled in the School of Design (2.1%) and the College of Education (1.4%). Respondents from the Agricultural Institute have been excluded from the analyses presented in this series of reports so that responses reflect the views and circumstances of students pursing baccalaureate degrees.
Table 2-2: Classification by Academic Unit
|Academic Unit||First-Year Population||Survey Respondents||Response Rate|
|Agriculture & Life Science||558||15.3%||492||15.3%||88.2%|
|Humanities & Social Sciences||426||11.7%||356||11.1%||83.6%|
|Physical & Math Sciences||129||3.5%||115||3.6%||89.1%|
Academic Preparation (Table 2-3)
Table 2-3 presents academic statistics for the 2002 first-year class and survey respondents. Overall, there are no differences between the first-year class and survey respondents on the various academic measures.
Table 2-3: Academic Preparation of First-Year Class and Survey Respondents
Academic Preparation Measure
|High School GPA||3.95||3.99|
1. The term "racial/ethnic" is used throughout these reports to recognize the potentially blurred distinction between the individual terms. In application materials students were requested to identify themselves using the following categories: Caucasian, African American or Black (not of Hispanic origin), Native American Indian or Alaskan, Asian or Pacific Islander, or Hispanic (Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish origin or culture, regardless of race). For analysis purposes, these categories were collapsed into "White," "African American," and "other minorities."(back)
2. Questions requiring categorical responses were analyzed with chi-square tests, and questions with numerically coded responses were analyzed with either T-tests or one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with Duncan's multiple comparison procedure. Complete results are available from UPA on request.(back)
3. A 95 percent confidence interval denotes the range of values which contains the true population value in 95 of 100 possible random samples of the first-year student population. The margin of error given in the text is conservative since it was calculated assuming a 50/50 response distribution for all questions. Margins of error for individual survey items are likely to be even smaller because response distributions are rarely symmetrical.(back)
For more information on the 2002
First-Year Student Survey contact:
Dr. Nancy Whelchel, Associate Director for Survey Research
Office of Institutional Planning and Research
Phone: (919) 515-4184
Posted: April, 2003
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