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:

The construct on which Wake Forest scored lowest was Science Identity (50.9).

The responses of WFU first-year students generally had no meaningful difference from those at four very highly selective private universities.

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.

WFU 2018 First-Year Students Compared to WFU 2016 First-Year Students

More 2018 first-year students compared to 2016 reported (to have):

WFU 2018 First-year Students Compared to Very Highly Selective Private Universities Students

More WFU 2018 first-year students compared to peers reported (to have):

Less WFU 2018 first-year students compared to peers reported (to have):

WFU 2018 Men Compared to Women

More men compared to women reported (to have):

More women compared to men reported (to have):

WFU 2018 White Students Compared to URM

More white students compared to URM reported (to have):

More URM students compared to white students reported (to have):

WFU 2018 First-year Students with No Financial Concern Compared to Those with Concern

Compared to first-year students with no financial concern, more students with concern reported (to have):

Longitudinal graphs of WFU Custom Questions

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.

See responses to all HERI survey items here.