The Sophomore Experiences Survey

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Background:

Each year since 2007, a team of researchers headed by Dr. Laurie Schreiner, Professor of Higher Education at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, CA, has conducted the Sophomore Experiences Survey in order to collect national information about sophomore success. The results of these surveys formed the basis for a chapter in the Jossey-Bass book, Helping Sophomores Succeed: Understanding and Improving the Second-Year Experience (Hunter, Tobolowsky, Gardner, Evanbeck, Pattengale, Schaller, & Schreiner, 2010), as well as the recent research monograph published by the National Resource Center for First-Year Students and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina: Young, D. G., Schreiner, L. A., & McIntosh, E. J. (2015). Investigating Sophomore Success, Research Report No. 6.

Purpose:

This national survey of sophomores gathers information about the sophomore experience, but also assesses second-year students’ level of thriving (Schreiner, 2010), defined as engaged learning, academic determination, social connectedness, positive perspective, and diverse citizenship. Items on the survey assess sophomores’ level of meaning and purpose, the degree to which they believe their major is a good fit for them, their levels of involvement on campus (including within sophomore programs), sense of community, satisfaction with a wide variety of campus experiences, and such outcomes as their intent to graduate, their perception that tuition is a worthwhile investment, and their institutional fit.

Cost:

As this project is for research purposes, the 2017 survey of sophomores’ experiences is free of charge and will include a complimentary copy of the national norms and your institution’s raw data in an Excel or SPSS file. However, any statistical comparison of your institutional results to the national norms or any disaggregation of the data by the project researchers will cost $250 per report in order to pay the graduate assistants who will do the data analysis and report writing.

Sampling Procedure:

Sophomores are defined as those in their second year of college, regardless of credit hours earned. Your sample should be representative of your own sophomore students and should contain at least 30% of your sophomores, in order to reliably compare your results to the national norms. However, we suggest sending the survey to all second-year students enrolled on your campus. Please let us know how many sophomores were sent the survey, so we can calculate response rates for the study.

Survey Process:

The survey is conducted online via Survey Monkey’s encrypted site. Each participating institution will receive their own URL where their survey is located, once we receive the institutional registration from www.thrivingincollege.org. Each institution is responsible for sending their sophomores an e-mail containing the URL (we will send you a sample copy of an e-mail to send that contains your own specific URL). A follow-up e-mail should be sent about a week after the initial e-mail, reminding students to go online to complete the survey. The survey takes about 20 minutes to complete. We strongly suggest the use of incentives (a drawing for gift cards, for instance) in order to encourage higher response rates. Please indicate in your registration process whether you intend to use incentives and what those are, so we can include that information at the beginning of the survey.

Protection of Human Subjects:

All information is kept in a password-protected and encrypted Survey Monkey site. No student identifiers will be included in the survey, but if your institution desires to gather student emails for incentives or student IDs in order to conduct your own follow-up study, please let us know and we will add that to the informed consent statement at the beginning of the survey. The questions on the survey are benign and pose no more risk to the student than daily life. No individual data will ever be reported; only grouped data will be used. No institutions will be identified in any publications describing the study, although the list of participating institutions will be available to participants and others upon request. No data will be linked to particular institutions in any published report. Azusa Pacific University’s Institutional Review Board has determined this project is exempt from full board review.

Benefits of Participation:

Participating in this project will contribute to the continuation of an important study targeting sophomores, the only large-scale study of its kind at the national level. As a way of saying thank-you for your participation, the researchers will provide your institution a complimentary copy of the national norms and your own dataset in Excel or SPSS format. If you want target group reports for particular subsets of sophomores on your campus, or would like a statistical analysis of how your sophomores’ responses compare to the national norms, there is a $250 fee for each custom report.

Next Steps:

To participate, complete the registration form online at www.ThrivingInCollege.org to confirm your institution’s participation and notify us if you would like to add up to 5 custom items for your institution. Once you have confirmed your participation, the URL address for your institution’s survey will be sent to you within a week, along with a sample e-mail to send out to your students. It is then your responsibility to contact your students and notify them of the URL address to complete the survey.

Timeline:

Institutions may administer the Sophomore Experiences Survey whenever they choose; national norms are created each semester. We recommend administering the survey in mid-spring for the best snapshot of how the sophomore year has been perceived by students. However, some institutions administer the survey in fall as a pretest for program evaluation purposes or to make programming adjustments.

Contact Information:

For information about survey logistics: Dr. Eric McIntosh (eric.james.mcintosh@gmail.com)

For information on sophomores, thriving, or theoretical/psychometric information:
Dr. Laurie Schreiner, Professor and Chair of Higher Education, Azusa Pacific University
lschreiner@apu.edu 626-815-5349