Wake Forest’s Fall 2018 incoming class arrived with big plans to get involved on campus and reported exhibiting many behaviors and traits associated with academic success. Men tended to rate their own social and academic skills higher than women rated themselves. Under-represented minority students indicated less social confidence than white students. And those with financial concerns placed higher value than those without financial concerns on civic and social activism.
The Freshman Survey (TFS), administered at Wake since 2000, is a national survey directed at UCLA by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), useful for determining incoming college students’ background characteristics, high school experiences, attitudes, behaviors, and expectations for college.
TFS was distributed by the Office of Institutional Research in August 2018 to half of the Wake Forest incoming freshman students (N = 710). A total of 347 first-year students submitted responses, representing a 49% response rate.
The respondents were fairly representative of the class by gender, although were somewhat underrepresented by Hispanic students (5% respondents vs 9% population), and somewhat overrepresented by African American students (9% vs 5%) and multiracial students (8% vs 5%). In order to correct the nonresponse bias, all analyses were performed with post-stratification weights. (See here for more on survey analysis methodology.)
WFU Compares Favorably to Nation on Item Constructs
Due to the large quantity of individual questions asked and the complexity of assessing specific areas of potential concern, HERI developed a number of constructs which group information gathered from numerous items into a more reliable, cumulative measure. These construct scores, which provide a way of looking at overall trends among survey responses, have a population mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10 across all administering institutions.
Top constructs in which WFU scored above the national average (WFU Average Score) include:
- Likelihood of College Involvement (55.6)
- Habits of Mind (54.0)
- College Reputation Orientation (53.8)
- Science Self-Efficacy (53.3)
The construct on which Wake Forest scored lowest was Science Identity (50.9).
First-year students at WFU in 2018 scored differently by gender on some constructs. Men scored higher than women on Social Self-Concept (Men 55.1 vs Women 50.8), Academic Self-Concept (54.8 vs 51.5), Habits of Mind (55.4 vs 52.8), and Science Self-Efficacy (54.9 vs 52.3).
White students and Under-represented Minority (URM) students scored equally on almost all constructs, except for Social Self-Concept (White 54.2 vs. URM 50.0).
First-years who indicated having financial concern in funding their education (45% of respondents) reported higher scores on Social Agency (Financial concern 54.5 vs. No financial concern 50.6), Science identity (53.3 vs. 49.4), and Civic Engagement (53.6 vs. 50.4). Those with financial concern also considered a college’s reputation as more important when making decision to attend this school comparing to those who had no financial concern (55.3 vs. 52.9).
Individual Items of Note
Although less reliable than constructs, individual questions may provide a closer look at notable differences across years and groups. The following links report by sub-groups those questions where the differences in percent responding between the groups exceed the 95% confidence interval.
More 2018 first-year students compared to 2016 reported (to have):
- Shown stronger science identity
- Considered preparing themselves for graduate or professional school as a very important reason to attend Wake Forest
- Demonstrated for a cause (e.g. boycott, rally, protest) in the past year
- Frequently taken a risk because they felt they had more to gain
More WFU 2018 first-year students compared to peers reported (to have):
- Attended their first-choice college
- Considered school size as a very important reason to attend their college
Less WFU 2018 first-year students compared to peers reported (to have):
- Liberal political views
- Strongly disagreed that racial discrimination is no longer a major problem in America
- Needed financial assistance or aids
More men compared to women reported (to have):
- Rated their ability to discuss and negotiate controversial issues as a major strength
- Strongly agreed that dissent is critical component of the political process
- Considered becoming successful in a business of their own as essential
More women compared to men reported (to have):
- Thought college education will enhance international understanding
- Considered becoming a more cultured person as a very important reason to go to college
- Strongly agreed that colleges should prohibit racist/sexist speech on campus
- Used to using social media for over 10 hours a week
- Frequently felt overwhelmed or felt anxious
More white students compared to URM reported (to have):
- Planned to join a social fraternity or sorority
- Consumed beer, wine or liquor in the past year
- Parents with higher education levels
- Rated themselves as the highest 10% in leadership ability
- Planned to vote in a local, state, or national election
More URM students compared to white students reported (to have):
- Considered getting to know people from a different background group from their own as a very important reason to attend Wake Forest
- Considered writing original works (poems, novels, etc.) as important
- More concerns about financial issues
- Exercised or played sports for less than 5 hours a week
- Never attended a religious service in the past year or (have) no religious preference
Compared to first-year students with no financial concern, more students with concern reported (to have):
- Considered the cost and the amount of financial assistance/aid when making college and studying abroad decisions
- Planned to get a job to help pay for college expenses
- Parents with lower income and lower education levels
- Graduated from public high schools
In addition to HERI survey questions, WFU added a number of custom questions to the survey over the years. An increasing percentage of first-years reported a college education will enhance their understanding of international cultures and societies a great deal.