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Seniors' Future Plans Survey, Spring 2011

Data from a spring 2011 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 (19%) following graduation. Five percent plan to travel, and 7% expect to be engaged in student teaching or an internship. (See graph.) These percentages are similar to those observed in both 2009 and 2010, as shown in the graph, with a few exceptions.

  • The percentage of seniors expecting to be employed after graduation was slightly higher in 2010 and 2011 than in 2009 (60% in '10 and '11 vs. 57% in '09).
  • The percentage of seniors planning to attend graduate or professional school has decreased slightly (19% in '11 vs. 21% in '09).
  • The percentage of 2011 seniors planning an internship or student teaching has risen slightly (from 5% in '09 and '10 to 7%), whereas the percentage of seniors planning to travel has fallen slightly (from 7% in '09 and '10 to 5%).
  • The percentage of 2011 seniors planning full-time employment in Colorado is about 26%.

Additional highlights for all seniors are provided below. Also included in this report are results by school/college and academic department, open-ended responses on "how to improve the CU-Boulder experience," and details about the survey background, response rate, and a copy of the questionnaire.

Highlights of the Results

After-graduation plans: all seniors.  More than three-quarters of 2011 seniors (79%) reported that their immediate post-graduation plans focus on employment or graduate study. Forty-three percent of seniors reported that their principal activity upon graduation is most likely to be full-time employment; 17% reported part-time employment (compared with 13% in 2009 and 16% in 2010). Seventeen 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.


Overall, these findings are quite similar across all three years, with the exception of seniors' reported plans for part-time employment, which has increased four percentage points since 2009.  As described previously, there is a slight increase in the percentage of seniors in 2011 who plan to pursue an internship or student teaching and a slight decrease in the percentage who plan to travel after graduation, compared to previous years.

Similar to previous years, very small percentages of 2011 seniors reported that they intend to pursue additional undergraduate coursework (1%), military service (2%), volunteer activities (2%), starting or raising a family (less than 1%), and other pursuits (2%). Other pursuits included such things as job hunting, preparing for professional qualification examinations (e.g., CPA exam, LSAT), other professional or vocational training (e.g., culinary school, rowing on a national team), 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 six colleges or schools: Arts & Sciences (subdivided into arts and humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences), Architecture & Planning, Business, Engineering & Applied Science, Journalism & Mass Communication, and Music.2

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

College/division Number of respondents
Arts & Sciences                  923
    Arts and humanities              (216)
    Natural sciences                 (399)
    Social sciences                  (308)
Architecture & Planning          56
Leeds School of Business         210
Engineering & Applied Science    144
Journalism & Mass Communication  75
Music                            20

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 reported 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 30% among Music students to higher levels of 69% and 79%, 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 (5%) and Journalism (7%) to about one-fourth of students in Architecture and Planning (27%) and Arts and Sciences-Natural Science (28%) to almost half of Music students (45%).
  • Although 7% of seniors overall indicated that they plan an internship or student teaching after graduation, approximately twice this percentage or more in Architecture and Planning (13%), Journalism (15%) and Music (20%) indicated such intentions.
  • From 1% to 3% of graduating seniors from most colleges/divisions indicated that their principal activity after graduation will be volunteer service. No students from Architecture and Planning, Engineering, or Music reported immediate plans for volunteer service.
  • 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 (0-2%), military service (0-4%), or starting or raising a family (0-1%; only four students overall).

After-graduation plans: results for CU-Boulder academic departments3. 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. Departments with fewer than five student survey respondents to the principal activity item were not included in these analyses. These departments are classics, environmental engineering, French and Italian, religious studies, and women and gender studies. Across the remaining 46 departments, the number of respondents ranged from 5 (ethnic studies; mathematics; operations and information management) to 125 (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, 74% or more of students in the departments of computer science, mechanical engineering, and electrical and computer engineering reported that their principal activity after graduation will be either full-time or part-time employment, compared with 43%-65% of students in the other three engineering departments. (Environmental engineering had too few respondents to be included in the analysis.)
  • Among all six business departments, the great majority of seniors (64%-86%) reported that their principal activity after graduation will be either full-time or part-time employment. Fewer accounting majors (64%) than the other business majors (78% or more) indicated they expected to be employed part- or full-time following graduation.

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=940) of survey respondents attended high school in Colorado.
    • One hundred seniors attended high school in California; 11-47 attended high school in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, or Washington; and even smaller numbers (0-10) attended high school in the remaining states.
    • Only 14 survey respondents attended high school outside of the U.S.
  • The map of states where seniors expect to be after graduating from CU-Boulder shows that:
    • By far the greatest percentage of seniors expect their principal after-graduation activity will most likely occur in Colorado—56% (n=805).
    • One hundred twenty-three seniors (9%) expect their principal after-graduation activity will most likely occur in California. Fewer seniors (n=11-42) expect it to occur in New York, Texas,  Illinois, Florida, Massachusetts, Washington, Arizona, or Washington, D.C.; and smaller numbers (0-10) in the remaining states.
    • Ninety-six seniors (7%) reported their principal activity would take place outside of the U.S. As one might expect, the main activity reported by these seniors is travel (40%; n=39). Other activities mentioned by these seniors besides the standard employment (20%) and graduate school (6%) options, included volunteer service (11%), internships (9%), and the military (4%).

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.

  • There is a modest positive relationship between the state in which seniors attended high school, other than in Colorado, 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 same state for their after-graduation activity.
    • Further details from states other than Colorado in which the largest number of respondents attended high school show that:
      • Among those who attended high school in California, almost half of them (47%) expect their principal after-graduation activity will occur in California.
      • One-fifth to about one-third of seniors who attended high school in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, or Arizona expect their principal after-graduation activity will occur in the same 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 940 64% 64% 24% 6% 5%
California 100 47% 30% 13% 6% 4%
Illinois 47 32% 36% 19% 2% 11%
Texas 30 17% 47% 7% 20% 10%
Minnesota 20 10% 60% 25% 5% 0%
New Jersey 19 16% 42% 32% 11% 0%
New York 18 11% 72% 6% 6% 6%
Arizona 17 35% 29% 24% 6% 6%
Massachusetts 17 18% 41% 35% 0% 6%
Pennsylvania 15 20% 33% 20% 7% 20%
Virginia 14 21% 29% 36% 0% 14%
Washington 14 7% 50% 36% 0% 7%
Connecticut 12 0% 42% 25% 25% 8%
Maryland 12 17% 42% 25% 17% 0%
Missouri 11 0% 45% 27% 0% 27%
Ohio 11 9% 45% 36% 0% 9%
All states and locations
excluding CO*
491 22% 40% 24% 8% 8%
All states and locations** 1431 50% 56% 24% 7% 6%
*Includes Washington, D.C. and locations outside of the U.S. No students from KY, WV or Puerto Rico.
**Excludes data from 10 respondents who left the high school state question blank.

Seniors' suggestions for improving the CU-Boulder experience. This is the second year we have collected data from an open-ended item, added to the survey in 2010, that asked seniors to give feedback on their university experience. The data include both positive and negative comments on a variety of issues that are 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 89% of all respondents (n=1,286) 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, Norlin, the UMC, etc.). A few example comments are provided below.

Spanish and Portuguese senior: "I believe CU should lower their costs on out of state tuition as well as book costs. Other than that CU has been amazing!!"

Political Science senior: "New buildings are nice, but I would prefer to have more professors teaching a broad variety of material and more support for student groups."

vironmental Studies senior:  "I think Career Services is such an important part of being a student, especially in rough times like these. It takes a very long time to get an appointment with Career Services, and perhaps this can be strengthened to provide students support and further emphasis on future career plans."
English senior: "CU-Boulder should better communicate to students their advising holds and their responsibility to schedule appts with advisors and how to change/declare majors."

International Affairs senior:
 "Promote the Conference on World Affairs to students more!! This year was the first year I volunteered and I can't believe I haven't done it before."

Journalism senior:
"One of the things I loved about my four years at CU-Boulder was the community feel on campus in places like the UMC and Norlin Commons. However, I think this could be stronger by encouraging participation in more activities on campus."

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.


In spring 2011, we administered a four-item “future plans” survey to graduating seniors for the third consecutive year. 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)5. 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 to this item, including a choice of "other." Respondents who choose "other" are asked to list their likely activity. In 2009, we added two responses --"travel" and "internship or student teaching." For AAU comparisons, these two responses are 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, department3, 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 = 2,993). On April 11, 2011, 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 18 and April 26 to those who had not yet responded to the survey. Data collection ended May 2, 2011.

Of the 2,993 graduating seniors, 7 could not be reached by email. Of the remaining 2,986 who were invited to participate in the survey, 1,441 (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.

2 Previous years' reports of seniors' plans categorized some seniors into the School of Education, based on second major. We have changed our categorization scheme for 2011 so that seniors are not categorized into this school.

3These are "ODA departments" that the Office of Data Analytics uses for reporting purposes.

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 CU Foundation in later years. ODA will have an opportunity to examine this issue further when we analyze data from the 2011 Alumni Survey.

5Data 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 colleges and universities. CU-Boulder’s College Portrait is available here.


Last revision 05/27/16

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