This year marks the 50th administration of the CIRP Freshman Survey. As we begin to administer the survey this spring and count down to the release of the 50th edition of The American Freshman, we will highlight some of the key findings and interesting survey nuggets for each of the Freshman Survey administrations. We will post these blogs weekly, so check back here regularly as we examine some of the more salient issues highlighted by the largest and longest running study of entering college students.
1966: Inputs Matter: Dr. Alexander (Sandy) Astin Initiates the Freshman Survey
The CIRP Freshman Survey was introduced in 1966 to better understand the students who were entering higher education institutions across the nation. The underlying premise was that, in order to understand the impact of college, it was first necessary to understand the “inputs” students were bringing with them. This still holds true for the Freshman Survey today and is a hallmark feature of the survey itself. However, some of the student “inputs” in 1966 look very different than the “inputs” of today. Some of the more unique items that were only asked in 1966 include:
Below is a general list of things that students sometimes do. Indicate which of these things you did during the past year in school.
• Acted in plays
• Participated on the speech or debate team
• Argued with other students
• Listened to New Orleans (Dixieland) jazz
• Drove a car
• Sang in a choir or glee club
In 1966, almost half of incoming students indicated that they listed to New Orleans (Dixieland) Jazz “frequently” or “occasionally” (47.6%) and a third of them acted in plays (32.9%) and/or sang in the choir or glee club (33.7%). While 12.5% of all students indicated that they had argued with other students “frequently” over the past year, men engaged in this behavior at higher rates than women (14.4% and 10.2% respectively).
These items reveal the types of activities and behaviors that were characteristic of entering freshmen in 1966. Since another goal of the Freshman Survey is to analyze trends over time, some of the items asked in 1966 have appeared on the survey every year since its inception:
Indicate the importance to you personally of:
• Helping others who are in difficulty
• Making a theoretical contribution to science (every year except 1973)
• Becoming accomplished in one of the performing arts (acting, dancing, etc.)
• Obtaining recognition from my colleagues for contributions to my special field
• Being very well-off financially
In 1966, 68.5% of all freshmen indicated that helping others who are in difficulty was “essential” or “very important” to them personally. However, more women (79.5%) indicated this was important than men (59.2%). Additionally, 43.8% of students indicated that it was “essential” or “very important” to be well-off financially, with more males (54.1%) than females (31.6%) marking this priority.
While the relative importance students place on these goals may have changed over time, the recurrence of these items represents the continuing relevance of these issues in the lives of students over the past 50 years.
Did you know…
• 37.7% of entering freshmen indicated that they “frequently” or “occasionally” gambled with cards or dice during their last year in high school.
• 60.3% of entering freshmen indicated that they “frequently” or “occasionally” made wisecracks in class during their last year in high school.
• 25% of entering freshmen indicated that they “frequently” typed a homework assignment during their last year in high school.
• 42.5% of entering freshmen indicated that they “frequently” or “occasionally” had a blind date during their last year in high school.