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Second year students, sophomores, end of second year, follow-up of freshmen 2008, attending western, course scheduling, concurrent enrollment, class size, general education, GURs, academic major, general academic advising, major advising, academic engagement and rigor, social engagement, department-level data, math center, western reads program, university residences, office of sustainable transportation


The Spring 2010 Follow-Up Survey of Freshmen Who Entered Western in Fall 2008 (2nd Year Survey) holds particular importance to Western in that it focuses on student experiences in first year programs and GUR courses. Together with the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and the Committee for Undergraduate Education, the Office of Survey Research (OSR) created this survey in an attempt to shed light on the efficacy of and satisfaction with programs designed to foster student success early in their Western careers. The 2nd Year Survey consists of a mixture of open ended, multiple choice, and numerical response questions. This survey targeted native freshmen (including running start students) who entered Western in the Fall of 2008. These students were completing their second complete year on campus at the time of the survey (Spring 2010). As part of OSR’s efforts to paint a longitudinal portrait of Western’s students, these students also were surveyed immediately prior to beginning their Western careers (Fall 2008 Baseline of Incoming Freshmen.) In an attempt to measure the success of pre-calling, OSR initiated the 2nd Year Survey by first calling potential respondents and informing them that they were to receive an e-mail survey shortly. These pre-calls were made on May 3, 2010 and the e-mail with embedded link to the survey was sent on May 5th. Electronic reminders were sent to non-respondents three days later and phone call reminders were placed on May 12th. For nonrespondents who provided the university with an external e-mail address, additional invitations and reminders were sent on May 13th and 17th. This was followed by a final phone call reminder during the following week. Of the 2,148 valid 2nd year students, OSR received survey responses from 1,355, a response rate of 63.1%. In addition to the contributions of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Research and the Committee for Undergraduate Education, a number of other campus offices contributed questions to the 2nd Year Survey. Among these contributors are the Math Center, University Residences, and the Office of Sustainable Transportation. Because of the large number of questions these offices included, OSR assigned a number of questions to be randomly skipped by students. In effect, this random skipping shortened the time it took for any individual student to complete the survey while still allowing for a large number of questions to receive a quantity of responses necessary for statistical analysis. For each question, this report notes when randomization occurs. OSR did encounter a flaw in its programming of this randomization routine. On May 11th, after 569 completed surveys and 65 partially completed surveys had been received, OSR realized that the randomized questions were not being asked. This problem was corrected and the remaining 721 responses successfully received the appropriate randomized questions. As with any survey, readers should be concerned about sample selection bias; that is bias which occurs because survey respondents are not a random selection from a population of survey recipients. While sample selection bias for the 2nd Year Survey is mitigated through proper survey techniques and a high response rate, its presence should be considered when evaluating data. Section A of this document reports basic demographic and academic statistics for all students who responded to the survey and compares them to non-respondents. As is consistent with OSR’s experience surveying Western students, women were more likely to respond to the 2nd Year Survey than men (63% of respondents were women whereas 59.2% of the population are women.) Likewise, respondents hold slightly better Western grade point averages; the average respondent earned a cumulative GPA of 3.04 compared to a population average of 2.97. Respondents are also more likely to live on campus (32.1% of respondents versus 29.5% of the population) and attempted more credits during spring quarter than non-respondents (average of 14.7 credits for respondents and 14.5 for the population.) Despite these differences, respondents and non-respondents were very similar in terms of race, running start status, residency in Washington, and first generation status. The remainder of this report is composed of twelve additional sections each focusing on an aspect of student experience. Rather than describing each of these sections, here we focus on two: Section L (DepartmentLevel Data) and Section M (Items Requested by Departments, Offices, and Programs). Some of the questions on this survey are better analyzed at the departmental level. For instance, questions about the quality of advising within a major or the likelihood of staying in a major are most helpful to specific departments. However, because some of these questions were randomly excluded from surveys and because many 2nd year students have yet to declare a major, only a small number of departments received enough responses to warrant documentation here. For departments which did receive a large number of responses, we included department-level breakdowns of questions dealing specifically with departmental issues in Section L. OSR will happily share data with departments who are not listed in this section. Section M contains summary data for questions submitted by other offices and departments. These include questions from the Math Center, the Western Reads Program, University Residences, and the Office of Sustainable Transportation. It is OSR’s intent to expand this section of the survey in the future as other departments add their own questions. While we leave it to the reader to decide what is informative or striking in this report, we undertake to highlight some findings which the wider campus may find interesting. Ninety-one percent of students claimed to be “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their Western experience but only 66% of students claimed that they were “very unlikely” to leave Western prior to graduation. For the sixty-one students who thought it probable that they would transfer from Western prior to graduating, the most common reasons given were that another school has a better program in their field, that they wanted to go somewhere new and different, or that Western doesn’t offer a major that is of interest. In order to gauge the difficulty of registering for courses, students were asked how many classes which they wanted to take in the spring quarter were full. The average number of full courses were 1.66, about half of which were GUR courses and about 90% were required for their major or pre-major. Students were also asked about courses that were too large. The three courses most frequently cited by 2nd year students as being too large were PSY 101, ESCI 101, and BIOL 101. Sadly, only 8% of students strongly agreed with the statement “Taking GUR courses gives me useful skills” and only 7% of students are “very satisfied” with GUR course availability. For students who have already declared a major, 63% claimed they were very unlikely to change their major prior to graduation. For undeclared students, 57% were certain as to what their major would be and 34% had some idea. Sixty percent of non-declared majors had contacted someone within a major department about their interest. The most common reason for not having declared a major was a need to take more courses to qualify for their major. Over the entire academic year, 35% of students claim they did not write a single paper longer than 5 pages and 56% claimed to write between one and four such papers. Given that 34% of students claimed that learning writing skills is very important to them, this lack of writing experience may explain why only 15% of students are “very satisfied” with the writing skills they have developed. Two features of the 2nd Year Survey are worth mentioning. First, this is part of a longitudinal cohort which began with an OSR baseline survey prior to the beginning of the freshmen year. OSR is happy to package this data and share it with interested researchers. Researchers may view the contents of the baseline survey given to these students at: Secondly, each respondent in the 2nd Year Survey is tracked with a unique tracking number which OSR can match with university records. This ability profoundly opens the door for research in issues which impact students and the university. OSR will happily provide such data to researchers, departments, and offices upon request.




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--Statistics; College freshmen--Washington (State)--Bellingham--Attitudes

Title of Series

Technical and research reports (Western Washington University. Office of Survey Research) ; 2010-06






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