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Seniors' Future Plans Survey, Spring 2009

Data from a spring 2009 survey of CU-Boulder graduating seniors indicate that the great majority of seniors plan to be either employed (57%) or attending graduate or professional school (21%) following graduation. Seven percent plan to travel, and 5% expect to be engaged in student teaching or an internship. (See graph.) 

A description of the data collection process, population, and respondents is provided below, along with a link to the questionnaire used in this survey.

Highlights of the Results

After-graduation plans: all seniors.  More than three quarters of seniors (78%) reported that their immediate post-graduation plans focus on employment or graduate study. Forty-four percent of seniors reported that their principal activity upon graduation is most likely to be full-time employment; 13% reported part-time employment. Eighteen percent said they are most likely to be enrolled full time in graduate or professional school, and 3% reported they would be going to graduate or professional school part-time.

About half of the remaining 22% of seniors reported that their immediate post-graduation plans focus on travel (7%) or on internships or student teaching (5%). The remainder report additional undergraduate coursework (1%), military service (2%), volunteer activity (3%), starting or raising a family (less than 1%), and other pursuits (3%), including job hunting, preparing for professional qualification examinations (e.g., CPA Examination), and preparing for graduate or professional school examinations (e.g., GRE, MCAT).

After-graduation plans: results for CU-Boulder colleges and schools.1 Undergraduate programs at CU-Boulder are housed in seven colleges or schools: Arts & Sciences (subdivided into arts and humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences), Architecture & Planning, Business, Education, Engineering & Applied Science, Journalism & Mass Communication, and Music.

As the following table shows, the numbers of survey respondents from the various colleges vary widely.

College/division Number of respondents
Arts & Sciences                  840
    Arts and humanities              201
    Natural sciences                 368
    Social sciences                  271
Architecture & Planning          47
Leeds School of Business         215
Education                        22
Engineering & Applied Science    160
Journalism & Mass Communication  59
Music                            12

Graphic representations of the data, presented by college, can be found here for the full range of 11 response options and here with response options collapsed into the following six response categories:

  • employed full- or part-time
  • graduate or professional school full- or part-time
  • military service, volunteer service, starting or raising a family, or additional undergraduate coursework
  • travel
  • internship or student teaching
  • other

Overall, and in each of the colleges/divisions, the great majority of seniors report that their principal activity after graduation will be either employment or graduate/professional school. There are, however, a number of differences across colleges in students' post-graduation plans. For example:

  • Although 57% of seniors reported that their principal activity after graduation will be full-time or part-time employment, this figure ranges from a low of 33% among Music students to higher levels of 64% and 80%, respectively, for students in Journalism and Business.
  • About one in five students (21%) indicated that their principal activity after graduation will be full-time or part-time attendance at graduate or professional school. This figure ranges from fewer than 10% of students in Business (6%) and Journalism (8%) to approximately a third of students in Architecture and Planning (30%), Music (33%), and the Natural Sciences (35%).
  • As would be expected, a high proportion of Education students (41%) reported that their principal activity after graduation will be internship or student teaching. Twenty percent of Journalism students fall in this category, as do fewer than 10% of students in the other colleges and divisions.
  • From 1% to 5% of graduating seniors from nearly all colleges/divisions indicated that their principal activity after graduation will be volunteer service. No students from Education and Journalism reported immediate plans for volunteer service; and a relatively high proportion of Music students (8%) reported such post-graduation plans.
  • Generally, very small percentages of students overall and in any of the colleges/divisions reported that their principal activity after graduation will be additional undergraduate coursework (0-3%), military service (0-4%), or starting or raising a family (0-1%; only six students overall).

After-graduation plans: results for CU-Boulder academic departments2. Data from the survey were analyzed by academic department, and the resulting graphs and statistics are available here for the full range of 11 response options and here with response options collapsed into the six response categories described above. Only those departments with at least five respondents to the principal activity item were included in these analyses. Departments excluded from the analyses are ethnic studies, religious studies, and Germanic and Slavic languages/literature. Across the remaining 48 departments, the number of student survey respondents ranged from five (Applied Mathematics, Environmental Engineering, Systems, and Women and Gender Studies) to 114 (Psychology and Neuroscience).  The opportunity for precise comparisons across departments is, therefore, limited.

Individual departments may wish to examine the data for a general or overall impression of their graduating students’ plans. For example:

  • Among the seven departments representing the School of Engineering, 80% or more of students in the departments of aerospace engineering, computer science, and electrical, computer, and energy engineering reported that their principal activity after graduation will be either full-time or part-time employment, compared with 40-62% of students in the other engineering departments.
  • Among the four business departments with high numbers of survey participants (accounting, finance, management, marketing), the great majority of seniors (76-83%) reported that their principal activity after graduation will be either full-time or part-time employment. (Only five students in the systems department participated in the survey.)

Geographic data. Graphic presentation of states where seniors graduated from high school and states where they expect their principal after-graduation activity will most likely occur are available here and here, respectively. These maps show that:

  • The majority (64%; n=875) of survey respondents attended high school in Colorado.
  • Ninety-one seniors attended high school in California; 11-38 attended high school in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, or Washington; and even smaller numbers (0-10) attended high school in the remaining states.
  • By far the greatest proportion of senior survey respondents expect their principal after-graduation activity will most likely occur in Colorado—55% (n=749).
  • One hundred twenty-one seniors expect their principal after-graduation activity will most likely occur in California; 11-36, in Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, or Washington, D.C.; and smaller numbers (0-10) in the remaining states.

There is a strong positive relationship between the state in which seniors attended high school and the state where they expect their after-graduation activities to occur. Data from states in which the largest number of respondents attended high school show that:

  • Among those who attended high school in Colorado, 64% anticipate carrying out their after-graduation plans in Colorado.
  • Among those who attended high school in California, 42% expect their principal after-graduation activity will most likely occur in California.
  • About a quarter to a third of seniors who attended high school in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington expect their principal after-graduation activity will occur in the state where they graduated from high school.
  • Only 7% of seniors who attended high school in New Jersey anticipate carrying out their after-graduation plans there. Compared with students from other states, a greater proportion of those from New Jersey expect their principal after-graduation activity to take place outside of the U.S.--26%, compared with no more than 15% of students who attended high school in other states.

States in which largest numbers of survey respondents graduated from high school
    Of those who went to H.S. in a particular state:
  Went to H.S. in that state (all responding seniors) Plan to be in that state after graduation Plan to be in CO after graduation Plan to be outside the U.S. after graduation
State N (%) N (%) N (%) N (%)
Colorado  875 (64%) 564 (64%) 564 (64%) 65 (7%)
California 91 (7%) 38 (42%) 32 (35%) 8 (9%)
Texas  38 (3%) 11 (29%) 15 (39%) 1 (3%)
Illinois 35 (3%) 11 (31%) 14 (40%) 3 (9%)
New Jersey 27 (2%) 2 (7%)    7 (26%)    7 (26%)
Massachusetts 22 (2%)    6 (27%)    9 (41%) 2 (9%)
New York 20 (1%)    6 (30%)    4 (20%) 3 (2%)
Pennsylvania 15 (1%)    4 (27%)    7 (47%) 0 (0%)
Maryland 13 (1%)    5 (38%)    4 (31%)    2 (15%)
Minnesota 12 (1%)    3 (25%)    2 (17%) 0 (0%)
Washington 11 (1%)    4 (36%)    2 (18%) 1 (9%)
All states exc CO* 459 (34%) 107 (23%) 169 (37%) 50 (11%)
*Includes Washington, D.C. No students from AR, DE, KY, MS, or WV.

Sizeable proportions of students who attended high school in states other than Colorado expect their principal after-graduation activity will most likely occur in Colorado. More than a third (35-47%) of seniors who attended high school in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, or Texas anticipate carrying out their after-graduation plans in Colorado.

Method

In spring 2009, we administered a three-item “future plans” survey to graduating seniors.  Data will be used both to describe and assess our own students' experiences and to compare our students with those at peer institutions in the American Association of Universities (AAU)3. CU-Boulder considers the AAU public institutions as its peer group for comparisons on many institutional issues facing its member universities, including student services, instruction, and student success and development. The AAU is a nonprofit organization of 62 leading public and private research universities in the United States and Canada.

To assess the future plans of bachelor’s degree recipients, we asked: “What is MOST LIKELY to be your PRINCIPAL activity upon graduation?” This question was developed and adopted by AAU member institutions to permit cross-institutional comparisons. AAU specified nine response options (listed below) to this item, including a choice of "other." Respondents who choose "other" are asked to list their likely activity. To these nine, we added two responses that seniors have reported in surveys we have conducted in the past—“travel “and “internship or student teaching.” For AAU comparisons, these responses will be classified as “other.” The 11 response options to the future plans question are:

  • Employment, full-time paid
  • Employment, part-time paid (or not sure if full or part-time)
  • Graduate or professional school, full-time
  • Graduate or professional school, part-time (or not sure if full or part-time)
  • Additional undergraduate coursework
  • Military service
  • Volunteer activity
  • Starting or raising a family
  • Travel
  • Internship or student teaching
  • Other, please specify below

We analyzed seniors' written responses to the "Other, please specify below" option. About 60% of these responses were re-classified into one of the other response options. A table of these written responses is provided and is organized by college/division, department2, and principal activity category.

The future plans item will be administered each spring to graduating seniors. We will publish cross-time findings when additional data become available.

In addition to the future plans item, the survey included the following two questions:

  • In what state do you think your principal activity will most likely occur?
  • In what state did you graduate from high school?

Population and Respondents

We surveyed the entire population of graduating seniors (N = 2,940). On April 8, 2009, seniors were sent an e-mail from the provost explaining the purpose of the Seniors' Future Plans Survey and inviting them to participate by accessing a Web-based questionnaire. The email informed seniors that those who completed a questionnaire would be eligible to win a $500 award. Reminder emails were sent on April 16 and April 23 to those who had not yet responded to the survey. Data collection ended May 1, 2009.

Of the 2,940 graduating seniors, five could not be reached by email, and one explicitly declined to participate. Of the remaining 2,934 who were invited to participate in the survey, 1,368  (47%) responded, completing all or part of the questionnaire.


1College and school departments with fewer than five respondents to the principal activity item were excluded from these analyses.

2These are "PBA departments" that the Office of Planning, Budget, and Analysis uses for reporting purposes.

3Data from the survey are also reported in the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) College Portrait, a new Web-based source of college information for prospective students and their parents that provides a range of basic information about the undergraduate student experience. This information is comparable across participating four-year public college and universities. CU-Boulder’s College Portrait is available here.

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Last revision 04/12/10


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