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Friday Food for Thought: Just Who Are the Freshmen at American Colleges?

Posted on February 6, 2015 | No Comments

by Linda Herman, LMHC

Just Who are the Freshmen at American Colleges?

We have up -to-date answers from the 50th annual CIRP (Cooperative Institutional Research Program)

Among their findings are the following:

Over a third of the freshman entering college in the Fall of 2014 expect to that they will need more than four years to complete their bachelor’s degrees. This statistic varies depending on whether a student is attending a more or less selective school. Those at less selective colleges and universities are more likely to take longer to graduate, in part, because more of those students think they will need remedial classes.

There has been a significant increase in the number of students planning to get either a master’s or doctoral degree as their ultimate objective. In 1974 that figure was just 28.1%. In 2014, 43.6% of entering students have their sights set on graduate degrees.

There is a growing discrepancy between the numbers of women and men in four-year institutions, with women comprising a larger percent of students. Along with the rise in the number of female students is a corresponding rise in their degree ambitions. Today, 36% of women plan to earn a doctorate or first professional degree, while only 29.4% of men have the same goal. Forty years ago, the figures were 15.3 % for women and 26.3% for men.

Students’ self-ratings of their emotional health are at the lowest point ever recorded. Only 50.7% rated themselves as above average in terms of emotional well-being. At the other end of the spectrum, 9.5% of students reported feeling frequently depressed. Those same students were twice as likely to arrive late to class or fall asleep in class. As one might expect, colleges are reporting record numbers of visits to their counseling centers (http://jobs.chronicle.com/article/Seeking-Help-at-a-Campus/149321/)

Alcohol and tobacco use has taken a sharp drop and is at its lowest level in 30 years. Only 33.5% of incoming freshmen report that they frequently or occasionally drank beer, compared to 74.2% in 1981. While  9.2% of freshmen reported smoking cigarettes in 1981, the figure dropped to only 1.7% in 2014. These trends mirror what has occurred in the population at large. Interestingly, those students who rated themselves as drinkers in high school predicted that they would be less likely to participate in college groups or clubs, and that they would be less likely to have a “B” average in college.

Finally, students’ self-reports of partying and socializing with friends is at an all time low. In 1987, for example, 37.9% of students reportedly socializing 16+ hours a week; in 2014, the figure is 18%.  The number of students who report partying less than an hour per week increased from 24.3% in 1987 to 61% in 2014. These same students indicate that they put increasing value on the social offerings at their colleges, while also relying increasingly on online social networks.

There is much information here to digest. We are all challenged to interpret the survey’s results and consider how they may apply to young people in our own lives.

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