It’s that time of year again when we start looking at the CIRP Freshman Survey results. Last year I described the process by which we determine what to write about in the monograph. This year I am going to give you a peek into what topics we are looking at.

Graduation rates have been on everyone’s radar screen the past few years, and HERI has been no exception.  In fact, HERI founder Sandy Astin wrote a book as far back as 1970 on retention called “Preventing Students From Dropping Out.”  Our most recent work in retention was a white paper Sylvia Hurtado and I wrote for the Gates Foundation that uses CIRP data and connects it to college completion.

I’ve been looking at a new question we added to the CIRP Freshman Survey in 2012 which asks incoming students how many years they think it will take them to graduate from the college they are entering. Those of us who monitor these things know that only about 36% of students graduating from four-year colleges actually graduate in four years, rising to 57% after six years. But how well attuned are incoming students to this? Is there a relationship between the actual graduation rate and the perception of those attending the school?

We also asked students how important the graduation rate of the college they are attending was in choosing where to go.  I’m very interested in the connection between this answer and the actual graduation rate, as well as how long they think it will take them to graduate.

It all boils down to…are students aware of the realities of college graduation? I’m not going to give way the answers here, but here’s a teaser…I’m going to be using the number 7.

We updated the list of majors this year, and were a bit worried about that. Whenever you alter a questionnaire for which a main purpose is to track change from year to year, you have to worry about mucking it up (that is the technical term, sorry to get so wonky on you).  I’m pleased to report that this worked exactly as intended, and we have more precision with update majors now while not impacting the ability to track trends.

One final nifty (sorry, more technical terms) improvement we made this year is asking about specific types of math courses taken in high school, such as pre-calculus, calculus, and of course the best class of all, probability and statistics.  This again we know from previous research is linked to retention.

So, there you go. A bit of a teaser as to what you will read about when we release the report on January 24, 2013. Mark your calendar. It’s going to be a fun day.