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The Sophomore Experiences Survey

The Sophomore Experiences Survey (SES) is an online survey whose foundation is the Thriving Quotient, a reliable (ɑ = .89), valid instrument that was developed to measure the academic, social, and psychological aspects of undergraduate students’ college experience that are most predictive of academic success, institutional fit, satisfaction with college, and ultimately graduation. Additionally, the survey contains scales predictive of thriving, as well as items specific to the sophomore experience. Intended for students in their second year of college, the SES provides institutions with actionable information about how their sophomores have experienced the university during this pivotal year, with national norms targeting only students in their second year. Typical administration of the survey occurs in February-March each spring.

The 24 items on the TQ cluster onto five scales:

  • Engaged Learning – (ɑ = .87) A measure of the degree to which students are meaningfully processing what happens in class and energized by what they are learning. Sample item: “I feel energized by the ideas I am learning in most of my classes.”

  • Academic Determination – (ɑ = .84) A measure of students’ goal-directedness, investment of effort, and regulation of their own learning and use of time. Sample item: “I am confident I will reach my educational goals.”

  • Positive Perspective – (ɑ = .78) A measure of students’ optimism and explanatory style. Sample item: “I look for the best in situations, even when things seem hopeless.”

  • Social Connectedness – (ɑ = .83) A measure of students’ involvement in healthy relationships and social support networks, whether on or off campus. Sample item: “I feel like my friends really care about me.”

  • Diverse Citizenship – (ɑ = .79) A measure of students’ desire to make a difference in the community around them, as well as their openness to differences in others. Sample item: “I value interacting with people whose viewpoints are different from my own.”

Examining thriving among sophomores developed out of a desire to understand student success in this pivotal year more holistically than previous higher education research that had focused solely on student retention. Dr. Laurie Schreiner developed the Thriving Quotient™ (TQ) using concepts from positive psychology (i.e., flourishing) and Bean and Eaton’s (2000) retention model to introduce the term thriving to “describe the experiences of college students who are fully engaged intellectually, socially, and emotionally” (Schreiner, 2010, p. 4). Thriving is not about personality traits, but rather describes malleable qualities within a student, meaning that institutions can teach students to thrive. Years of TQ research has documented specific experiences that serve as significant pathways to student thriving; these pathways are also measured in the online survey:

Sense of Community – (ɑ = .87) A measure of student belonging, ownership, and sense of mattering to the institution. Sample item: “I feel like I belong here.”

Institutional Integrity – (ɑ = .84) A measure of the degree to which students perceive the institution to be “delivering on its promises.” Sample item: “This institution was accurately portrayed during the admissions process.”

Spirituality – (ɑ = .93) A measure of the degree to which students have a sense of meaning and purpose in their life that provides strengths during difficult times. Sample item: “My spiritual or religious beliefs are a source of meaning and purpose in my life.”

Faculty Sensitivity to Diverse Learners – (ɑ = .88) A measure of students’ perceptions of faculty inclusion of multiple perspectives in their curriculum and pedagogy, as well as their sensitivity to the needs of diverse learners. Sample item: “How satisfied are you with the degree to which your instructors include diverse perspectives in the curriculum?”

Frequency of Student-Faculty Interaction – (ɑ = .81) A measure of how often students interact with faculty in various settings. Sample item: “How often this year have you interacted with your instructors outside of class?”

Satisfaction with Faculty Interactions – (ɑ = .79) A measure of students’ satisfaction with how often they interact with faculty as well as quality of those interactions. Sample item: “How satisfied are you with the quality of the interactions you have had with your instructors so far this year?”

Campus Involvement – (ɑ = .85) A measure of students’ frequency of participation in campus activities, events, and organizations. Sample item: “How often this year have you participated in campus organizations?”

 

In addition to these predictive pathways, the online survey assesses sophomore-specific items, such as how often students have participated in any sophomore programming at their university, the extent to which they have participated in service-learning courses or learning communities, and how they have experienced their sophomore classes and entire experience compared to their first year of college. The survey also assesses students’ satisfaction with learning, advising, peer interactions, their living situation, mental and physical health, and overall satisfaction with their sophomore year. Additional items include the degree to which students are certain of their major, as well as demographic characteristics such as gender, age, race/ethnicity, household income, generation status, high school GPA, athlete status, whether they live on campus, hours per week they work, and whether the institution was their first choice at enrollment. Target group reports can be requested on any of these demographic characteristics to determine whether thriving or satisfaction levels are significantly different across subpopulations of sophomores.

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