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North Carolina State University
First-Year Student Survey Trends, 1994-2009:
Executive Summary

Survey Methods

From 1994 to 2008 NC State conducted its annual survey of entering first-year students as a paper and pencil survey administered during New Student Orientation. In 2009 the administration mode and timing was revised. Beginning that year, the week after attending New Student Orientation students were emailed a request to participate in the survey (followed by up to four reminders to non-respondents), which was now being conducted exclusively online. Immediately after the start of the fall semester students who had not attended New Student Orientation were also invited to participate in the survey.

Prior to the switch to the online administration mode in 2009, when the response rate dipped to 70 percent, over the years the response rate ranged between 78 percent and 92 percent. The overall survey response rate for all years, including 2009, is 85.2 percent.

Background Characteristics

There has been little change over time in the size of the community from which NC State students come. In each survey year a majority of students reported that they come from a moderate-sized city or larger, while less than one-fifth reported that they come from a rural area.

Between 60 and 72 percent of respondents in each survey year reported that their households contain four or more members. Thirty percent or more respondents in each year said that in addition to themselves, one or more of their parents' dependents were currently enrolled in college. The number of respondents reporting that they are the only dependent in their family currently enrolled in college dropped to an all-time low of 64 percent in 2009.

Over the survey years the percentage of respondents reporting household incomes over $100,000 annually (in constant dollars) has increased, while the percentage reporting grossing $30,000 or less has held fairly steady.

While the percentage of respondents reporting an educational attainment of baccalaureate degree or higher for their father/male guardian has remained fairly stable at about 60 percent, the proportion of mothers/female guardians with a baccalaureate degree or higher has increased from about 50 percent in 1996 to 59 percent in 2009. The percentage of first generation college students has remained fairly stable across survey years, with less than 10 percent of respondents in each year reporting that neither parent had attended college.

The percentage of first-year students planning to bring a personal computer to NC State has increased steadily across survey years. Not surprisingly, there has been a notable change in the type of computer students plan to bring to NC State. Between 2000 and 2009, among those planning to bring a computer to campus, the proportion of respondents planning to bring a desktop computer dropped from about 70 percent to 1 percent, while the proportion planning to bring a laptop increased from 31 percent to 94 percent.

Applying to NC State

Between 1994 and 2002, about one-fourth of respondents said they applied only to NC State. Since then this figure has steadily declined, reaching a low of 14 percent 2009. On the other hand, the proportion of first-year students who applied to five or more colleges including NC State has nearly doubled, going from 13 percent in 1994 to 24 percent in 2009.

Across the survey years half or more of students said they had received a letter from someone outside of the Admissions Office. They were much less likely to have received a call from a faculty/staff member or from a current student, and least likely to have gotten a call from an NC State graduate. However, the addition of a "don't know/don't remember" response option in 2009 provides evidence that a sizable number of students do not actually remember whether or not they had any of such letters or calls.

Students are consistently most likely to report that academic reputation and level of support for my intended major are the "single most influential factor" in their decision to attend NC State. Each year since 1997 "acceptance into First Year College" has become a consistently stronger influence in students' decision to attend NC State. Over the past five years, the average rating for the amount of influence that "campus visits prior to orientation" has had on the decision to enroll has increased more than any other factor asked about, going from 3.1 to 3.6 (on a 5-point scale).

The proportion of students reporting they were "very satisfied" with both the university admissions process and the departmental admissions process at NC State has risen steadily since 1997, reaching 59 percent in 2009. In each survey year, less than about 10 percent of respondents reported being dissatisfied ("moderately" or "very") with either aspect of the admissions process.

In each survey year, more than 80 percent of those who used it rated the Virtual Advising Center website as "excellent" or "good."

Paying for College

The percentage of first-year students receiving financial aid generally increased across survey years. Academic-based and financial need-based aid were the most commonly reported type of aid expected, with with the proportion of respondents saying they were receiving such aid increasing across survey years.

More than two-thirds of first-year students in each year reported being either "very" or "moderately" satisfied with the financial aid process at NC State. Satisfaction has grown over the years, with the percentage of those saying they were "very satisfied" increasing from 20 percent in 1997 to 33 percent in 2009. The proportion saying they were "very dissatisfied" dropped from a high of 10 percent in 2000 to a low of 4 percent in 2009.

Preparation for College

Since 1997 the vast majority of respondents to the First-Year Student Survey reported feeling at least "somewhat well" prepared for college both by their high school and by their own efforts. In each survey year, students were much more likely to report that they were "not very well" prepared by their high school than by their own efforts.

Educational Intent and Interests

In each year, more than 70 percent of first-year students indicated that their educational plans included an advanced degree. More than two-thirds of students in each year reported being "certain" or "very certain" of their choice in college major.

Since 1995, one-half or more first-year students have stated that their primary goal for attending NC State was to obtain a bachelor's degree as "preparation for graduate or professional school." The proportion of first-year students saying their primary goal is "graduate school preparation" has gradually increased across survey years, while the proportion saying their primary goal is "career preparation" has gradually decreased.

Between 1994 and 2008, more than 30 percent of first-year students reported that they intended to work during their first semester at NC State. In 2009, the question wording was changed, and 47 percent of first-year students reported planning to work during their first year at NC State. Among those planning to work, the large majority plan to limit their work hours to less than 20 per week.

Campus recreation activities have consistently been the most popular co-curricular activities across survey years. Large numbers of respondents have also expressed interest in volunteer services, social fraternity/sorority, and the co-op program. Interest in study abroad has increased dramatically over the survey years, while interest in social fraternity/sorority has declined.

In each year between 2000 and 2006, more than 40 percent of respondents who intend to seek employment after graduation reported that location was not important. This figure dropped notably in 2007, to 33 percent, with a corresponding increase in the number of respondents saying they plan to seek employment "anywhere in the USA." Since then, the percentage saying they would seek employment "anywhere" has increased, but not to the levels of previous years. The proportion saying they would seek employment "in North Carolina only" remained consistent at about one-fifth across survey years.

For more information on trends in the First-Year Student Survey contact:
Dr. Nancy Whelchel, Associate Director for Survey Research
Office of Institutional Planning and Research
Box 7002
Phone: (919) 515-4184

Posted: July, 2010

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