The College engages in an active schedule of survey research. Feedback from these surveys helps both academic and administrative areas to better understand our students' needs and patterns of development. They help us to identify areas where we are achieving our goals, and where we might focus attention for improvement. Surveys themselves are imperfect measures, but combined with other information such as observations, College data, conversations, etc., they are an important part of our self-reflection process. They inform many of our decisions, and we are very grateful to our students, alumni, faculty, and staff who contribute to the College's success by providing their feedback.
From: Liz Braun
Date: September 5, 2012
Subject: Thank you!!! and some facts about your class...
Dear New Students,
I want to take a moment to thank you for responding to our recent Survey of New Students over the past few weeks. Swarthmore has a long tradition of surveying its students, because it is important to us to understand as best we can your background, interests, experiences, and expectations, We use your feedback to help us do our jobs better, and so the time and thought that you put into these surveys is a contribution that makes the College a better place for you and the students who come after you.
I have just learned that over 90% of this class responded to the Survey of New Students — that's a record!! We thank you for this, and want to share a few of the findings that might interest you.
Asked to describe yourselves as students, the item that received the most ratings of "describes me well" was: I prefer courses that arouse my curiosity, even if they are difficult. (72% said "Very well").
A quarter of students come from backgrounds in which a language other than English was spoken, either entirely or with a mix of English.
The college activity that most feel unprepared for is (was!) selecting courses. (Hopefully you feel much better about that now!) The activity that most report being well prepared for is "Function effectively as a member of a team ."
By far, the most important thing you hope that college will provide is "Opportunities to discover and pursue your intellectual passion" — 84% said this was "Essential"
Just over a third are confident about what your major will be. One in five have NO IDEA what you will major in.
Nearly two thirds say that you are likely to serve in a peer mentoring role at college (43% say "somewhat likely" and 20% say "very likely").
We look forward to learning more about you from this and future surveys, and especially from meeting and talking with you now that you're here. Best wishes for a great first semester!
Dean of Students
About every four years Swarthmore conducts a survey of all enrolled students, which focuses on day-to-day student activities, modes of student-student and student-faculty interactions, student use of institutional resources, and environmental factors that relate to engagement in the educational process. It includes questions about gains in learning that provide a snapshot of student learning development. A chart reflecting the Spring 2011 students' self-reported learning gains is provided on the College's Assessment website under "Institutional Measures and Activities," and may be linked directly from here.
Swarthmore has administered the Higher Education Research Institute's "CIRP Freshman Survey" to incoming students since 1971. As a national, longitudinal survey, it allows us to compare our students with their peers nationally, as well as to follow trends in their backgrounds, attitudes, goals, and expectations. The chart below presents the percentages of new students in Fall 2011 who responded that they engaged "frequently" in each of a set of activities said to reflect "Habits of Mind." (Click on the chart to view a larger version.)
A brief report on the "Habits of Mind" construct, as well as HERI's "Social Agency" construct, for the students entering in Fall 2011 is available here: CIRP 2011 — Habits of Mind and Social Agency.pdf
Swarthmore conducts a biennial survey of graduating seniors, along with a group of several dozen peer institutions. The survey invites seniors to evaluate the College in detail, evaluate their own progress, and report on their plans for the future. Charts reflecting responses by 2012 seniors to the questions:
- "Overall, how satisfied are you with your undergraduate education?" and
- "Would you encourage a current high school senior who resembles you when you were a high school senior (similar background, ability, interests, and temperament) to attend your undergraduate institution?"