Perhaps not surprising in an election year, Wake’s 2016 incoming first-year students indicated on the Higher Education Research Institute’s (HERI) CIRP Freshman Survey greater concern for and more plans to become engaged with the world around them globally, politically, and through service. Wake Forest freshman also reported to be less concerned about financing their education and expressed less connection to the sciences compared to their peers. The Freshman Survey (TFS), administered at Wake since 2000, is a national survey 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 2016 to all Wake Forest incoming freshman students.  A total of 652 students submitted responses out of 1,306, representing 50% of the first-year class.  The respondents were fairly representative of the class by gender, although fewer survey respondents reported being Hispanic than in the entire entering cohort.

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 across all administering institutions and a standard deviation of 10.

Constructs in which WFU Scored Above National Average (WFU Average Score):

Constructs with positive movement at WFU since the 2014 survey included Social Agency (50.7 in 2014 vs. 52.7 in 2016), College Reputation Orientation (52.7 vs. 54.7), and Civic Engagement (51.3 vs. 53.7). However, the Habits of Mind construct score decreased at WFU since 2014 (53.8 vs. 51.1).

There are several notable differences between 2016 first-year students’ responses at WFU and Very Highly Selective Private Universities. WFU first-year students scored lower on Science Identity (WFU 48.0 vs. Peers 52.1), Science Self-Efficacy (51.1 vs. 53.3), and Academic Self-Concept (53.0 vs. 55.3). WFU respondents only scored higher than peers on the College Reputation Orientation construct (54.7 vs. 53.1).

WFU’s 2016 women significantly outscored WFU’s men in the Likelihood of College Involvement construct (56.2 women vs. 50.5 men). Furthermore, women had higher scores in Social Agency (53.6 vs. 51.7) and Civic Engagement (54.7 vs. 52.6). Conversely, men scored higher in Academic Self-Concept (54.8 vs. 51.5) and Social Self-Concept (52.5 vs. 50.5).

White respondents in 2016 at WFU scored lower than All Other races at WFU in Pluralistic Orientation (50.1 white vs. 51.7 all other), Social Agency (52.3 vs. 53.7), and Science Identity (47.3 vs. 50.2).

Students at WFU in 2016 who indicated no financial concern in funding their education scored higher on Social Self-Concept (52.2 vs. 50.4) and Science Self-Efficacy (51.8 vs. 50), but lower in Likelihood of College Involvement (53 vs. 54.3).

Individual Items of Note

Although less reliable than constructs, individual questions provide a closer look at notable changes within Wake Forest.

WFU Only – 2016 TFS compared to 2014 TFS

Items Where More Wake Students…

Items Where Fewer Wake Students…

Wake Forest 2016 TFS compared to Very Highly Selective Private Universities 2016 TFS

More Wake first-year respondents compared to Very Highly Selective Private University respondents reported in TFS to:

Fewer Wake respondents compared to Very Highly Selective Private University respondents reported in TFS to:

A greater percentage of Wake respondents than Very Highly Selective Private University respondents indicated the following reasons were not important in their decision to attend their university:

In deciding to come to their institution, more WFU respondents indicated the following reasons were very important compared to peers at Very Highly Selective Private Universities.

Wake Forest Custom Questions

Wake Forest added several custom question to The Freshman Survey, including many for the first time in 2016. On items asked previously, more WFU respondents in 2016 than in 2014:

See responses to all HERI survey items here.