Institutional Research
Swarthmore College
Senior Survey 2006
In the spring of 2006 graduating seniors were invited to participate in our biennial Senior Survey. It is a web-based survey, and achieved a 62% response rate. Students were asked a range of questions, including everything from their participation in activities during their college years, to their plans for the fall following graduation. This report touches on some of the highlights from that survey.  
The majority (68%) of Seniors planned employment as their principal activity for the fall following graduation, the second highest rate in 12 years (71% of the Class of 2000 had planned employment). Another 21% planned to attend graduate school as their primary activity.  
The survey asked about secondary plans in addition to the primary fall activity. An additional 14% of students planned to go to graduate school in the fall, but not as their principal activity. Considering all seniors, not just those who planned to attend graduate school as their primary activity, almost 30% had applied to graduate school. Nearly a third of seniors who applied to graduate school had been admitted to PhD programs. An additional 10% were admitted into medical school and 10% were admitted to law school. (16% had not yet been admitted at the time they responded to the survey.) Over half of all Seniors planned to ultimately earn PhD's, Law, or Medical degrees.1  
One of the more interesting sections of the survey has a set of questions called a "time diary," where students are asked how they spent their time during a typical week in the fall term. Not surprisingly, the biggest blocks of time, on average, were spent on attending scheduled classes and labs, and on working on these courses outside of class. The next largest amount of time was spent socializing.2  
A number of questions were added to the end of the standard senior survey, to focus on issues of particular interest to Swarthmore. Because we had asked faculty about student workload expectations in a recent survey (2004-05), we thought it might be interesting to ask seniors the same question. Seniors were asked to think of a typical course they were taking, and to indicate the level of the course, how much time they spent working on the course outside of scheduled class and lab time, how much time they thought faculty expected them to spend outside of class, and how much time they thought was the appropriate amount of time for meaningful learning to take place.3  
The chart below presents the results for a typical upper level course4, and reveals an interesting pattern. Students' self-reported actual time spent (7.5 hours) is actually very much in line with what faculty said (on their survey) they expect of students (7.3 hours). However, seniors believe that faculty expect even more of them (7.9 hours). At the same time they believe that meaningful learning would take place if the workload for time spent outside of class was lower (6.8 hours, on average).  
That all of these measures are within the range of one hour (per week) of each other suggests that students and faculty are probably more similar than dissimilar in their outlooks on the appropriate amount of time to spend preparing for class.  
1In fact about 20% of Swarthmore graduates eventually earn doctoral degrees. This is based on data from the National Science Foundation's Survey of Earned Doctorates, over the last several decades.(Back)  
2The question asked students to indicate the accurate range of hours for each activity (e.g. 1-2 hours, 3-5 hours, etc.). The average was estimated using the midpoints of each range. An additional activity, "Using a computer for academic work," is not presented, as it likely has a great deal of overlap with the other academic work activities. (Seniors reported 12 hours per week, on average, at this activity.)(Back)  
3Again, categories with ranges of hours were presented, and a midpoint estimation method was used to calculate the means that are presented here.(Back)  
4The majority of seniors (85%) responded with respect to an upper level course, which was defined as one taken primarily by juniors and seniors.(Back)  
Prepared by Swarthmore College Office of Institutional Research
in collaboration with the Dean's Office, November 2006.

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