Western Educational Longitudinal Study (WELS): Baseline Survey of Freshmen Entering Western in the Fall, 2011
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The Fall, 2011 Baseline Survey of Freshmen Entering Western (Freshmen Survey) continues the Office of Survey Research’s (OSR) efforts to collect information on all students prior to the start of their academic careers at Western Washington University. This survey represents the initial contact in a longitudinal process that makes inquiries of students at the end of their sophomore year, when they graduate from the university, and one to two years after graduation. The Freshmen Survey is designed with three purposes in mind: (1) to provide baseline observations of students prior to their Western experience which can be used to forecast and enhance student success; (2) to provide data that can assist university assessment and accreditation efforts; (3) to assess student needs based upon their self-reported characteristics, perceptions, and concerns. To accomplish these, the Freshmen Survey integrates questions into five major sections: pre-collegiate engagement and experiences, the college application process, class scheduling and expectations, skills, goals, and expectations, and expenses and employment. In addition to these, Western’s Office of Sustainable Transportation submitted a number of questions which are summarized herein. The questions on the Freshmen Survey are a mix of open-ended, numerical, and multiple choice responses. This report lists all questions and reports basic descriptive statistics from questions which lend themselves to numerical analysis. Responses to the open ended questions are available upon request. OSR uses a mixture of online and telephone survey methodologies to obtain responses. Freshmen who attended Western’s Summerstart program were provided an opportunity to complete this survey as part of their Summerstart experience. Students not attending Summerstart and those failing to complete the survey while at Summerstart were invited to complete the survey online. For these students, an initial e-mail was sent to their external e-mail address. Two follow-ups were sent to non-respondents and then non-respondents were called and asked to participate. The survey was left open until the weekend before Fall quarter courses began on campus. Of the 2,861 Fall 2011 freshmen, OSR received 2,311 responses; a response rate of 80.7%. As with any survey, readers should be concerned with sample selection bias; that is bias which arises because survey respondents are not a random selection of the population of survey recipients. While sample selection bias for Western’s exit survey is mitigated through proper survey techniques and a high response rate, its presence should be considered when evaluating any survey data. Section A of this report compares respondents to all incoming freshmen. Relative to all freshmen, respondents were more likely to be women (60.3% of respondents were women as were 57.5% of all freshmen), were less likely to be a minority (22.1% versus 23.6%), had a higher admissions index (56.4 versus 55.7), were more likely to be first generation students (31.9% of respondents versus 31.2% of non-respondents), and were more likely to be from a high school in Washington (85.6% versus 81.8%). OSR is excited to share its individual survey results with campus researchers so they may answer their own questions. To familiarize readers with the content of this survey, here we make a few observations regarding the survey results. Including Western, the median respondent applied to three universities and was accepted to two. Besides Western, the five most common schools applied to were the University of Washington, Washington State University, Central Washington University, the University of Oregon, and Seattle University. Among the schools students applied to, 69% of respondents listed Western as their first choice school to attend. Thirty-five percent of incoming freshmen are certain about their major and an additional fifty percent of students have some idea of what they will study. Just less than three-fourths of students expect to complete their bachelor’s degree in four years or less; an amount similar to that reported in the prior year. Just about one-in-ten students claim they are either somewhat likely or very likely to transfer from Western to another university prior to graduation, again an amount similar to the prior year. The most common reasons given for the potentially transferring are a lack of degree program interesting to the student and a perceived lack of prestige. For those students who responded to the survey after registering for courses, 40% claimed to be very satisfied with their course schedule, an increase over the prior year by 5%. For those who were dissatisfied with their class schedule, the most common reasons given were that courses were full, scheduled at conflicting times, spread too far out throughout the day, or begin too early in the morning. For the coming year, the average student hopes to work 13 hours per week, an amount one hour higher than the prior year. Roughly 40% of students expect to use $10,000 or more of their family resources to attend Western this year while one-in-five expect to borrow $10,000 or more this year. All of OSR’s survey data is linked by a unique student identifier which allows merging of this survey with future longitudinal surveys as well as Western’s data warehouse. OSR is excited to share this data with researchers interested and departments interested in improving Western’s educational experience.
Digital object produced by Office of Survey Research, Western Washington University, and made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.
Subjects - Topical (LCSH)
College freshmen--Washington (State)--Bellingham--Longitudinal studies; College students--Washington (State)--Bellingham--Longitudinal studies
Title of Series
Technical and research reports (Western Washington University. Office of Survey Research) ; 2012-02
Clark, Linda D. (Linda Darlene); Hartsoch, Beth; Krieg, John M.; and Seaman, Keiran, "Western Educational Longitudinal Study (WELS): Baseline Survey of Freshmen Entering Western in the Fall, 2011" (2012). Office of Institutional Effectiveness. 544.
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