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Senior Survey, Spring 2008


We regularly ask seniors about their satisfaction with their educational experiences at CU-Boulder and about their after-graduation plans and activities. Our goal is to provide systematic information for:

  • academic and service units to use in planning and improvement
  • the Boulder campus to use in meeting requirements for institutional accountability
  • use by the state and by prospective and current students and their families.

In previous years, we've surveyed samples of seniors, rather than all seniors. This year, we surveyed the entire population of seniors (N = 6,802). On March 10, 2008, seniors received an e-mail from the provost explaining the purpose of the Senior Survey and inviting them to participate by accessing a Web-based questionnaire. Initially, we informed seniors that those who completed a questionnaire would be eligible to win one of two $500 awards. In an effort to increase response rates after data collection was underway, we offered seniors two additional financial incentives: 1) those who were among the next 50 to respond following receipt of the March 17 reminder would be eligible to win an additional $250, and 2) those who, in response to the April 2 e-mail reminder, were among the students to submit a questionnaire on that day by midnight had an additional opportunity to win a $250 award. Responding seniors who were selected to win the $250 awards were also eligible for the drawing for the original $500 awards. Data collection ended April 21, 2008.

Of the 6,802 seniors who were invited to participate in the survey, 2,695 (40%) responded, completing all or part of the questionnaire. Seventy-two percent of responding seniors entered CU-Boulder as freshmen; the remainder entered as transfer students, typically between fall 2002 and fall 2007. Most of the seniors who entered as freshmen did so in the fall of 2004 (67%). The remainder typically entered either in fall 2003 (14%) or in fall 2005 (11%).

The percentage of seniors who responded this year (40%) is somewhat higher than the percentage responding in 2004 (38%) but lower than the percentage responding in 2001 (51%). Click here for additional information concerning the population and response rates.

Highlights of the Results

When reviewing the results, it is important to consider that although some questionnaire items had higher average ratings in 2008 than in previous years (1993-1996, 1998, 2001, and 2004), the differences from year to year are typically small, generally not statistically reliable, and may not necessarily be meaningful in a practical sense. In addition, the 2001 results seem somewhat anomalous; they are sometimes higher and sometimes lower than results for either of the chronologically adjacent survey years (1998 and 2004). When considering change over time in seniors' responses, therefore, it is best to draw conclusions from long-term trends consisting of several years of survey results, rather than from only a couple consecutive years.

Seniors are satisfied with CU-Boulder and rate the overall quality of the institution high. The great majority of seniors reported that they were satisfied or very satisfied with their overall experience at CU-Boulder (81%) and with the academic experience in their major (76%). A substantial percentage of seniors (88%) reported that they would recommend CU-Boulder to a friend with either some (50%) or no (38%) reservations. As was the case in 2004, when seniors were first asked whether their program of study met their educational goals, nearly all (97%) responded "yes." For the first time this year, seniors were asked how well CU-Boulder had prepared them for the job market; 62% reported that it had prepared them either very well or generally well.

Another first-time question asked students whether the benefits gained from attending CU-Boulder were worth the financial costs; 74% agreed that they were. The greater the amount of debt students had incurred to finance their education, however, the less likely they were to agree that the benefits had been worth it.  Nevertheless, even among students reporting the greatest personal debt ($50,000 or more), more than half (55%) agreed that the benefits received from attending CU-Boulder were worth the financial costs.

Satisfaction with advising is somewhat higher than earlier levels. Seniors' ratings of advising services are higher than those of any previous Senior Survey. This includes advising provided by their college or school and major-specific advising on course selection, academics, and careers. The proportion of seniors reporting that they are either satisfied or very satisfied with the clarity of degree requirements in their majors is, at 66%, higher than or equal to the proportion in earlier surveys.

Seniors reported the highest satisfaction ever with opportunities for interaction with faculty. Sixty-six percent of seniors reported that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with such opportunities.

Seniors' satisfaction with many important services remains high. Seniors' satisfaction with numerous key university services remains high and comparable to that of earlier cohorts. The table below shows various university services and the percentages of seniors who reported either medium or high satisfaction. The services listed are used by either all seniors or very high proportions of Senior Survey respondents.

Service Medium High Medium + High
Academic records & transcripts (both on-line & in-person services) 51% 42% 93%
Bursar's office 56% 26% 82%
Career Services 45% 26% 71%
CU-Boulder Bookstore 49% 29% 78%
CU Connect (student web portal) 45% 45% 90%
Financial Aid office 48% 28% 76%
Information Technology Services computer labs 42% 50% 92%
Recreation Center 40% 48% 88%
Registration (on-line & in-person; not course availability) 46% 44% 90%
University libraries 44% 49% 93%
University Memorial Center (UMC) food services 57% 23% 80%
UMC (excluding food services) 58% 33% 91%

Not all high-volume services had high ratings. Less than half (43%) of seniors reported either medium or high satisfaction with Parking Services. Nevertheless, this service received a much higher rating this year than in the past; the highest previous rating was in 2004, when only 27% of seniors reported either medium or high satisfaction.

Services for more specialized populations maintained relatively high satisfaction ratings. A number of campus services are directed to more specialized populations and serve smaller numbers of students. These include Off-Campus Student Services (80% of seniors indicating medium or high satisfaction), the Student Academic Services Center (76%--offering tutoring, academic skills training, etc.), Victim Assistance (77%), the Cultural Unity Center (81%--now called the Center for Multicultural Affairs), Disability Services (64%), and the GLBT Resource Center (79%). In general, satisfaction with these services is comparable to that reported in earlier years.

Satisfaction with course availability is higher than in 2004. Forty-four percent of seniors reported being either satisfied or very satisfied with desired course availability, and 54% reported these levels of satisfaction for required courses other than the core. The lowest levels of satisfaction with course availability were reported in 2004 (38% and 51%, respectively). Levels in 2008 fall at or just below the lower end of the range in previous surveys (conducted in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, and 2001). In those earlier surveys, the percentage of seniors who reported being either satisfied or very satisfied with desired course availability ranged from 39% to 57%, and the percentage who were satisfied or very satisfied with required course availability ranged from 50% to 66% over this same period.

Several skill/knowledge areas received lower importance ratings than in previous years. As was the case in 2004, writing, dealing with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, world affairs, mathematics and quantitative reasoning, and foreign language all received somewhat lower ratings of importance to success after graduation. This is not to say, however, that seniors do not perceive these areas as important. In fact, 74% of seniors reported that writing has either much or critical importance to their success, and 75% reported these levels of importance for dealing with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. For foreign language, mathematics/quantitative reasoning, and world affairs the percentages of seniors rating these as having much or critical importance are 38%, 44%, and 52%, respectively.

Seniors' ratings on several aspects of their undergraduate majors were virtually unchanged in 2008. These included difficulty of courses, amount of structure, orientation of course work (scale endpoints of "too theoretical" and "too practical"), and program emphasis in major (scale endpoints of "too broad" and "too specialized"). The percentage of seniors reporting that these aspects are "about right" ranged from 45% (time spent in small group projects) to 63% (orientation of course work, and amount of structure in your major).

Most seniors reported positive assessments of their undergraduate major. Overall, the majority of seniors (53%-63%) reported that the following aspects of their majors were "about right": difficulty of courses, amount of structure, orientation of course work (theoretical/practical), program emphasis (broad/specialized), and opportunities for oral presentations in class. Just under half (45%) of seniors reported that  time spent in small group projects was "about right"; the remaining 55% were almost equally split between those who though too little time was spent and those who thought too much time was spent on such projects. Three times as many seniors thought that courses in their major tended to be too difficult, compared with seniors who thought they tended to be too easy (34% vs. 11%). The proportion of respondents who thought the program emphasis of their major tended to be too broad was more than double the proportion who thought it tended to be too specialized (29% vs. 11%), and the proportion of respondents who thought the course work in their major tended to be too theoretical was almost twice as great as the proportion who thought it tended to be too practical (25% vs. 13%).

If seniors were starting over at CU-Boulder, the things that they would do differently include: interact more with faculty (52%); go on Study Abroad (46%); spend more time/effort on extracurricular clubs/activities (37%) and career advising (38%); participate more in campus-related research projects, internships, and applied experiences (34%); and spend more time/effort on academics/studying (36%). It is interesting to note that, in a separate question about what they would do differently, 10% of seniors reported that they would spend less time/effort on academics/studying, and 12% reported that they would spend less time in social activities. In general, the 2008 Senior Survey respondents' reports of things they would do differently are very similar to those of earlier cohorts of CU-Boulder seniors.

After-graduation plans. Sixty-five percent of respondents reported that they expect to graduate from CU-Boulder in spring or summer 2008, and 35% after summer 2008. More than half (56%) of seniors reported that their principal activity upon graduation is most likely to be full-time employment. One quarter said they are most likely to be enrolled full time in graduate or professional school.

Only 12% of seniors reported that their immediate post-graduation plans do not focus on employment or graduate study. For those students, plans include additional undergraduate coursework, military service, volunteer activity, starting or raising a family, and other pursuits, including travel and self-exploration.

Pursuit of additional degrees. Among seniors who reported that attending graduate or professional school (either full-time or part-time) will be their principal activity upon graduating, more than 75% plan to begin graduate education immediately after graduating from CU-Boulder: 8% in law school, 6% in medical school, 6% other medical training (e.g., dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine), 36% master's degree, 7% doctorate degree, 6% master's and doctorate, and 7% other combinations of multiple degrees. More than a quarter of these students also reported plans for additional graduate or professional education at some future time as well. Among the 22% with no immediate plans for further education, nearly all report specific plans for pursuing graduate education at some future time--the majority for other medical training (14%), master's degree (26%), master's and doctorate (17%), or other combinations of multiple degrees (23%).

Overall, only 24% of Senior Survey respondents did not indicate that they intend to pursue further education. The greatest proportion (36%) reported that they intend to pursue a master's degree only, followed by those who intend to pursue two or more degrees, either a master's and a doctorate (8%) or other combination of two or more degrees (19%). Smaller percentages intend to pursue a single professional degree or a doctorate only: 4% law only, 2% M.D., 3% other medical degree, and 3% doctorate. Only 1% of respondents intend to get a second bachelor's degree only.

Plans for employment. Among seniors who expect to graduate by summer 2008 and who expect that full-time employment will be their principal activity upon graduating, 36% had received a job offer (or offers) by April of their senior year; 25% had already accepted a position. Of those who had accepted a position, the great majority (72%) will be working in private for-profit corporations or companies; 3% will be self-employed; 15% will work in government or other public institutions; and 5% will work in private, non-profit organizations, including schools and colleges. Most students who had accepted a job reported that the position was either in the same field as their major (43%) or in a field related to their major (38%).

Additional Results

In addition to results for the entire campus, this report provides results illustrating seniors' responses over time (from 1993 through 2008) to survey questions. Results are also provided by college and by academic major. Any of these results may be accessed by clicking on the links in the sidebar to the left.

New AAUDE Items. Eleven new items were added to the "Future Plans" section of the survey:  ten from the American Association of Universities Data Exchange (AAUDE) and one from the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA). Results for some, but not all, of these items were described above (e.g., whether the benefits of a CU-Boulder education  were worth the financial costs, pursuit of additional degrees, plans for employment). Additional information about the new AAUDE items can be found in the questionnaire design section, and results for all of them are in the section Expected Occupation, Education, and Other New AAUDE Items. Note that there is also a link to these results in the sidebar.

Open-Ended Items. Three open-ended items were retained from previous senior surveys:

  • "Please explain in what ways your program did or did not meet your educational goals."
  • "If you could CHANGE ONE THING about your major program, what would it be?"
  • "What is the ONE BEST THING about your major program?"
Verbatim responses for these items are provided in an Excel file, which includes respondents' college/school, Arts & Sciences division, if applicable, and major. The file is password-protected. For information on obtaining access to the Excel, click here: open-ended item comments (there is also a link in the sidebar).


Last revision 05/02/16

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