At CIRP, we update our surveys annually to ensure they reflect current issues and priorities in higher education. Every summer we sit down as a group and think together about the updates and changes that will best help our users and researchers accomplish the goals of understanding and improving undergraduate education. We use the comments we get from survey users about the instruments, item histories, copies of survey instruments, relevant educational research and coffee (lots of coffee) to facilitate the annual process.
This year, the largest and most notable change was to update and revise the intended major question on The CIRP Freshman Survey (TFS). I won’t get into how over the course of many meetings we consulted the NCES data; cross referenced it with college catalogs and majors lists, etc. I will just say that as a result, we greatly expanded the Biological and Life Science, Business and Engineering categories to more accurately reflect the range of majors in those fields. Additionally, we added a Health Professions category and separated Math and Computer Science majors from the Physical Science category. Lastly, those of you who are long time TFS users will notice that we have removed outdated language and majors from the list, including Secretarial Studies. You can see a crosswalk between the old majors and the new majors here. Related to the update to the majors, we added a new separate item asking students if they consider themselves Pre-Med or Pre-Law, which we hope will help you better demonstrate just how many incoming students intend to pursue those fields, regardless of their intended major.
To facilitate longitudinal matching, the major categories will remain unchanged on the College Senior Survey (CSS) for the time being. We will update the CSS as these first year students enter their senior year in 2016.
For those of you who use the paper TFS, there is one very important point we need to stress about the new majors. On the web version of the survey, we can add as many majors as we want with little to no impact. For paper surveys, all those nifty new majors had to go somewhere. You will notice a “flap” on the TFS survey (just like the one already found on our CSS) that contains the majors codes students will enter. This flap cannot be processed by the machines that read our surveys. So please do remind students as they are completing the survey to carefully remove the flap after they are done. The thought of many of you in your offices tearing off flaps before sending the surveys back keeps us up at night. It’s also important to note that if our processing center receives your surveys with the flaps still attached, they charge us to remove the flaps, and we will have to pass that charge along to you before processing of your surveys can begin. This information is also detailed in our Administration Guidelines, the Administration Checklist , and the Shipping Form.
Beyond the changes to the majors, we also added several items designed to help institutions dig deeper into retention issues. We’ve added items asking students how many years they expect it will take them to graduate, how likely they are to take a temporary leave of absence, and the extent to which the institution’s graduation rate impacted their college decision.
You can take a look at the 2012 CIRP Freshman Survey instrument here.