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WELS, WELS baseline, WELS baseline surveys, Freshmen, baseline, baseline survey, baseline surveys, freshmen surveys, freshmen baseline, freshmen baseline surveys, new students, pre-college, engagement, college application process, Skills, goals, expectations, expenses, employment, summerstart, WELS baseline survey of freshmen


The Fall, 2010 Baseline Survey of Freshmen Entering Western 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 possible additional 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 services; and (3) to assess student needs based upon their self-reported characteristics, perceptions and concerns. To accomplish these purposes, the Freshmen Survey integrates questions into five major sections: Pre-collegiate engagement and experiences; the college application process; familiarity and comfort with Western; academic skills, goals, and expectations; and expenses and employment. The questions on the Freshmen Survey were a mixture 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 used a mixture of online and telephone survey methodologies to obtain responses. Incoming 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 who chose not to complete the survey while at Summerstart were invited to complete the survey online. E-mails were initially sent to the student’s external e-mail address. After the initial e-mail, OSR sent e-mail reminders to non-responders twice. The survey was then left open online until the weekend before Fall quarter courses began on campus. Of the 2,920 Fall 2010 freshmen, 2,427 responded to the survey (a response rate of 83.1%). 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 data. Section A of this document compares respondents to all incoming freshmen. Relative to all freshmen, respondents were more likely to be female (61.4% of respondents versus 59% of all freshmen), averaged a slightly higher admission index (57.2 versus 56.7), and were more likely to be first generation college students (32% of respondents versus 30.2% of all freshmen). On the other hand, respondents were nearly identical to non-respondents in measures of age, SAT, and high school percentile. 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 the survey, here we make a few observations regarding the survey results. Out of a list of 16 possibilities, the three most important reasons why students claimed to come to Western were the recreational opportunities in the area, Western’s good academic reputation, and Western’s size. Almost two-thirds of students first learned about Western through a relative or friend and almost nine out of ten learned of Western prior to their senior year in high school. Including Western, the median student applied to three colleges and was accepted to two of them. Besides Western, the three schools most commonly applied to were the University of Washington, Washington State, and Central Washington although other common schools include the University of Oregon, University of Portland, Gonzaga, and Seattle University. Among the schools to which they applied, 69% of incoming freshmen claimed that Western was their first choice; the next closest was the University of Washington (14%). Nearly one-third of students claim to be certain about their major and another half of students have some idea of what they will study. About three-fourths of students expect to graduate in four years or less; no students expect to take longer than five years to graduate. Twelve percent of students claimed some positive likelihood that they would transfer from Western prior to graduation and an additional 26% were unsure if they would transfer or not. Among those likely to transfer, the most common reasons given were that Western did not offer a degree program that interested the student, a perceived lack of prestige, and friends/family attend a different school. For students who attended Summerstart, 77% were either “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with their class schedule. For those expressing some level of dissatisfaction, the most common reason given was that needed classes were full. All of OSR’s survey data is linked by a unique student identification number allowing for merging of the survey data with Western’s data warehouse or with data collected by future surveys. Using this identifier, OSR can provide open ended responses or specific data to departments who want to investigate further.




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) ; 2011-02






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