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PBA Home > Institutional Research & Analysis > Surveys > Seniors' Future Plans Survey, Spring 2010

Seniors' Future Plans Survey, Spring 2010

Data from a spring 2010 survey of CU-Boulder graduating seniors indicate that the great majority of seniors plan to be either employed (60%) or attending graduate or professional school (20%) following graduation. Seven percent plan to travel, and 5% expect to be engaged in student teaching or an internship. (See graph.) These percentages are similar to those observed in 2009, with a few exceptions. The percentage of seniors planning immediate after-graduation employment in 2010 is somewhat higher than in 2009 (60% vs. 57%, respectively), whereas the percentage planning to attend graduate or professional school is slightly lower (20% vs. 21%, respectively). These changes might be associated with recent improvements in the economy.

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 2010 seniors (80%) 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; 16% reported part-time employment (compared with 13% in 2009). Eighteen percent said that they are most likely to be enrolled full time in graduate or professional school, and 2% reported they would be going to graduate or professional school part-time.

About half of the remaining 20% of seniors reported that their immediate post-graduation plans focus on travel (7%) or on internships or student teaching (5%). The remainder reported additional undergraduate coursework (1%), military service (2%), volunteer activity (2%), starting or raising a family (less than 1%), and other pursuits (3%). These other pursuits included such things as job hunting, preparing for professional qualification examinations (e.g., CPA exam, GRE), other professional or vocational training (e.g., Police Academy, Emergency Medical Technician, professional figure skating), and pursuing more than one thing (e.g., employment and school, working and volunteering abroad).

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                  968
    Arts and humanities              247
    Natural sciences                 393
    Social sciences                  328
Architecture & Planning          68
Leeds School of Business         219
Education                        24
Engineering & Applied Science    184
Journalism & Mass Communication  82
Music                            23

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 60% of seniors reported that their principal activity after graduation will be full-time or part-time employment, this figure ranges from a low of 39% among Music students to higher levels of 73% and 76%, respectively, for students in Journalism and Business.
  • One in five students 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 (4%) and Journalism (7%) to more than a third of students in Architecture and Planning (35%) and Music (43%).
  • As would be expected, a high proportion of Education students (29%) reported that their principal activity after graduation will be internship or student teaching. Twelve percent of Journalism students fall in this category, as do fewer than 7% of students in the other colleges and divisions.
  • From 1% to 4% of graduating seniors from most colleges/divisions indicated that their principal activity after graduation will be volunteer service. No students from Education, Journalism, Engineering, or Music reported immediate plans for volunteer service.
  • 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 (0-4%), military service (0-4%), or starting or raising a family (0-1%; only three students overall).

After-graduation plans: results for Latin and Grade Honors seniors compared with all Arts and Sciences seniors. A report showing results for all Arts and Sciences seniors compared with those of seniors with Latin honors in the major and seniors with other honors attached to the degree (grade honors), by Arts and Sciences Divisions (Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences) was prepared for the Honors Program Director at the end of June, 2010. The report presents graphs and statistics for the full range of 11 response options for both 2009 and 2010.

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 classics, ethnic studies, environmental engineering, and Germanic and Slavic languages/literature. Across the remaining 47 departments, the number of student survey respondents ranged from 5 (French and Italian; Women and Gender Studies) to 121 (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 seniors’ plans. For example:

  • Among the departments representing the College of Engineering and Applied Science, 77% or more of students in the departments of computer science and mechanical engineering reported that their principal activity after graduation will be either full-time or part-time employment, compared with 53%-68% of students in the other engineering departments. (Environmental engineering had too few respondents to be included in the analysis.)
  • Among business departments, the great majority of seniors (64%-94%) reported that their principal activity after graduation will be either full-time or part-time employment.

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.

  • The map of states where seniors graduated from high school shows that:
    • The majority (65%; n=1,007) of survey respondents attended high school in Colorado.
    • One hundred and eleven seniors attended high school in California; 11-47 attended high school in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, or Wisconsin; and even smaller numbers (0-10) attended high school in the remaining states.
  • The map of states where seniors expect to be after graduating from CU-Boulder shows that:
    • By far the greatest proportion of seniors expect their principal after-graduation activity will most likely occur in Colorado—54% (n=851).
    • One hundred twenty-three seniors expect their principal after-graduation activity will most likely occur in California. About half that many (n=54) expect it to occur in New York; 11-29 seniors in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, or Washington, D.C.; and smaller numbers (0-10) in the remaining states.

The table below provides further details on the relationship between seniors' state of residence in high school compared with their expected state of residence after they graduate from CU-Boulder.

  • 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. In addition, 61% of students who attended high school in Colorado are planning to remain here after they graduate. These findings suggest that CU-Boulder has a positive influence on Colorado's economy by graduating both resident and non-resident students who remain in this state.
    • Half or more (50-64%) of seniors who attended high school in Illinois, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida, or Pennsylvania anticipate carrying out their after-graduation plans in Colorado.
    • Of all the seniors who attended high school in states or locations other than Colorado, 42% indicated they plan to remain in Colorado after graduating from CU-Boulder.
      • Somewhat similar findings can be found in the pattern of non-resident bachelor recipient alumni who, three to five years after graduating, also remained in Colorado to live and work: 39% of these alumni were reported to have Colorado addresses in 2003, and 26% were reported to have Colorado addresses in 2007.4
    • Overall, 54% of all seniors reported they expect to stay in Colorado to work, attend school, or participate in other activities after graduating from CU-Boulder.
  • There is a modest positive relationship between the state in which seniors attended high school and the state where they expect their after-graduation activities to occur. Overall, about one in five students who attended high school in a state other than Colorado expect to return to that state for their after-graduation activity. Data from states in which the largest number of respondents attended high school show that:
    • Among those who attended high school in Colorado, 61% anticipate carrying out their after-graduation plans in Colorado.
    • Among those who attended high school in California, 38% 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 Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, or Texas expect their principal after-graduation activity will occur in the state where they graduated from high school.
    • From 11-17% of seniors who attended high school in Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York expect their principal after-graduation activity will occur in the state where they graduated from high school.

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 elsewhere in U.S. after graduation Plan to be outside the U.S. after graduation Don't know
State N** % % % % %
Colorado 1007 61% 61% 23% 8% 7%
California 111 38% 32% 16% 10% 4%
Illinois 47 11% 55% 17% 13% 4%
Texas  36 31% 39% 22% 3% 6%
Massachusetts 24   29%  38% 21% 8% 4%
New York 20    15%    50% 20% 5% 10%
Minnesota 16   25% 50% 19% 6% 0%
Wisconsin 16 0% 63% 31% 0% 6%
Connecticut 15 13% 47% 20% 13% 7%
Maryland 15 7% 33% 40% 7% 13%
Florida 14 7% 57% 29% 0% 7%
Pennsylvania 14 7% 64% 14% 7% 7%
Georgia 13 15% 31% 46% 8% 0%
Arizona 12 17% 42% 17% 8% 17%
New Jersey 12 17% 42% 25% 8% 8%
Ohio 11   27% 27% 27% 0% 18%
ALL states and locations excluding CO* 553 20% 42% 23% 9% 6%
ALL states and locations 1560 46% 54% 23% 9% 7%
*Includes Washington, D.C. and locations outside of the U.S. No students from DE, KY, ND or Puerto Rico.
**Excludes data from 8 respondents who left this question blank.

Seniors' suggestions for improving the CU-Boulder experience. This year we added an open-ended item for seniors to give feedback on their university experience. We were looking for both positive and negative comments on any issues that were of concern to graduating seniors, as they looked back on their entire university experience. In particular, this question asked: "Please describe the ONE thing you think CU-Boulder should (or should not) do in the future to improve the university experience for students like you." Approximately 90% of all respondents (n=1,410) answered this question.

The issues and areas of concern mentioned in the seniors' comments varied widely in content. Many of the comments addressed academic issues such as positive or negative experiences with professors, instruction, course size, the core curriculum, academic advising, etc., whereas other comments addressed a wide array of topics, such as tuition increases, career assistance, the construction on campus, continuing CU-Boulder's sustainability efforts, specific issues with organizations, departments, and resources (e.g., the Conference on World Affairs, the Writing department, Norlin hours, the UMC, etc.). A few example comments are provided below.

Anthropology senior: "More small 10-15 person classes. The small discussions and critical thinking courses were by far my most useful."
Ethnic Studies senior: "Expand recruitment, information and funding for Service Learning opportunities on the CU Boulder campus."
Psychology and Neuroscience senior: "Keep the small class writing programs! I heard they might be cut."
Linguistics senior: "Reduce tuition costs and encourage professors to use online PDF based readings rather than physical text books. That will make CU more green and help students save some green."

These comments are to be used for internal administrative purposes only, and are provided in a password-protected Excel. We plan to share these comments with relevant administrators and units on campus that are most likely to utilize them by taking action on some of the issues and concerns raised in the comments.

Method

In spring 2010, we administered a four-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 63 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 50% 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.

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

  • In what state do you think your principal activity will most likely occur?
  • In what state did you graduate from high school?
  • Please describe the ONE thing you think CU-Boulder should (or should not) do in the future to improve the university experience for students like you.

Population and Respondents

We surveyed the entire population of graduating seniors (N = 3,293). On April 8, 2010, seniors were sent an e-mail from the chancellor 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 15 and April 22 to those who had not yet responded to the survey. Data collection ended May 1, 2010.

Of the 3,293 graduating seniors, 8 could not be reached by email. Of the remaining 3,285 who were invited to participate in the survey, 1,568 (48%) 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 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.

4This decrease in the percentage of non-resident bachelor recipient alumni residing in Colorado between 2003 and 2007 may be a result of real changes or possibly a result of more accurate addresses being made available through the Alumni Foundation in later years.

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Last revision 07/08/10


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