Generally, Wake Forest first-year students in March, 2019 reflected more positively on their experiences than peers at other institutions administering the HERI Your First College Year (YFCY) survey. However, respondents differed frequently on issues of negative cross-racial interactions and pluralistic orientation (i.e. skills and dispositions appropriate for living and working in a diverse society). The average Wake respondent had more negative cross-racial interactions than respondents at other private institutions; while within Wake, under-represented minority students reported more negative cross-racial interactions than White students. Wake Forest respondents scored lower in 2019 than in 2017 on pluralistic orientation and the 2019 Wake respondents without financial concerns scored lower on this issue than those with concerns.
Your First College Year (YFCY) is a national survey directed at UCLA by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), useful for determining from end-of-year first year their experiences and satisfaction with a number of areas across the university. In conjunction with The Freshmen Survey (TFS) administered in the fall as students enter Wake Forest, YFCY provides data on how the first year of college affects students. YFCY was first administered to Wake Forest first-year students in 2013 and has since been administered every year until 2015, then every other year since 2017.
YFCY was distributed online by the Office of Institutional Research in March 2019 to a randomly selected 725 members of the first-year class. A total of 107 first-time, full-time students submitted responses (15% response rate, 7.5% of the entire first-year class). The respondents were fairly representative of the class by gender, although somewhat underrepresented by Hispanic students (2% respondents vs 9% of this first-year class), and somewhat overrepresented by African American students (11% respondents vs 5% of this first-year class). In order to correct the non-response 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 more reliable, cumulative measures. 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:
- Social Agency (54.7)
- Sense of Belonging (54.0)
- Overall Satisfaction (53.4)
- Leadership (53.2)
(Note: conservative margin of error +/- 2.9)
Wake Forest trended negatively on Pluralistic Orientation from 54.1 to 51.3 between 2017 and 2019.
WFU differed meaningfully from other Private Institutions on nine constructs. Positively, WFU scored higher than other Private Institutions on Social Agency (WFU 54.7 vs Private 51.3), Sense of Belonging (54.0 vs 50.2), Overall Satisfaction (53.4 vs 50.3), Civic Engagement (53.4 vs 50.8), Leadership (53.2 vs 51.1), Positive Cross-Racial Interaction (53.0 vs 50.5), and Civic Awareness (52.5 vs 49.7). However, WFU scored lower than other Private Institutions on Academic Adjustment (WFU 49.1 vs Private 51.2); and scored higher on one negative construct, Negative Cross-Racial Interaction (WFU 54.4 vs Private 52.3).
Construct Comparisons within Wake Forest
In general, WFU first-years in 2019 scored equally by gender on most constructs. The exceptions being men scored higher than women on Science Self-Efficacy (Men 53.5 vs Women 47.3); men had higher scores of Academic Disengagement (49.7 vs 45.5); and men scored lower than women on Positive Cross-Racial Interaction (Men 51.0 vs Women 55.0).
Under-Represented Minority (URM) students on average had much higher Negative Cross-Racial Interaction scores when compared to White students (URM 59.6 vs. White 52.1). However the two groups had similar scores on the remaining constructs.
WFU first-year students with backgrounds of dissimilar financial concerns scored differently on 3 of 18 constructs. Compared to students with no financial concerns about their ability to finance their college education, those with at least some financial concerns (55% of respondents) scored higher on Positive Cross-Racial Interaction (Concern 54.7 vs No concern 50.6) and Pluralistic Orientation (53.3 vs 48.7); but scored lower on Academic Adjustment (46.1 vs 53.2).
Individual Survey Items of Note
Although less reliable than constructs, individual questions 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.
Fewer first-year students in 2019 compared to 2017 reported (to have):
- Felt a sense of belonging to this campus
- Agreed that WFU had contributed to their understanding of national issues
More WFU 2019 first-year students compared to peers reported (to have):
- Utilized the career services since entering college
- Joined a fraternity or sorority
- Agreed that their institution has contributed to their foreign language ability
Fewer WFU 2019 first-year students compared to peers reported (to have):
- Covered past years’ educational expenses from aid which need or need not be repaid
- Utilized the campus safety services (Safe Walk, Public Safety/Police Dept., etc.) since entering college
More first-year students on YFCY 2019 when compared to TFS 2018 reported (to have):
- Skipped class in college versus skipping high school/class
Fewer first-year students on YFCY 2019 when compared to TFS 2018 reported (to have):
- Performed volunteer work
- Sought personal counseling compared to their expectation of utilizing personal counseling a year ago
- Been confident in their scientific skills
More men compared to women reported (to have):
- Rated their ability to discuss and negotiate controversial issues as a major strength
More women compared to men reported (to have):
- Utilized the writing center services
- Performed volunteer work
- Agreed that sexual violence is prevalent on this campus
More URM students compared to white students reported (to have):
- Felt ignored or invisible because of their race/ethnicity
- Participated in an ethnic/racial student organization
- Considered becoming accomplished in one of the performing arts as an important goal
Compared to first-year students with no financial concern about financing their college education, more students with concern reported (to have):
- Some difficulty adjusting to the academic demands of college
- Been satisfied with classroom facilities
In addition to HERI survey questions, WFU added a number of custom questions to the survey over the years. No directional changes were found between 2017 and 2019.