CIRP Freshmen Survey
Results Over 25 Years
The CIRP Freshmen Survey has been administered to nearly every entering class of new freshmen at Macalester since 1971. The CIRP survey asks new freshmen about their views and expectations as they enter college. Because this is a nation-wide survey, weighted norms are available for new freshmen at private, 4-year, non-sectarian, very highly selective institutions (VHi Sel) as well. In 2005, this comparison group included over 14,000 students from 31 institutions. The following graphs show results from a selection of some of the survey questions, many of which have consistently been included in the survey since 1979.
The CIRP results at Macalester over the years show a large increase in the high school grades of the new freshmen. Of the new freshmen in fall 2005, 83% reported their average high school grades were A or A-, compared to about 45% thirty years ago. The increases in reported high school grades occur in two periods: 1984 to 1988, and 1994 to 2002.
Throughout the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, Macalester's acceptance rate of new freshmen applying for admission consistently hovered around 80%. By the 1990s Macalester's acceptance rate had decreased to approximately 50%. The first period of increases in "A" grades during 1984 to 1988 corresponds with this decrease. During a second period of increased grades after 1995 to 2000, the admission rate at Macalester essentially did not change.
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Macalester freshmen are somewhat more likely to expect they will make at least a "B" average in college than new freshmen at other very highly selective institutions.
They are also more likely to plan on completing a PhD someday.
However, they don't really rate themselves any higher in terms of their academic ability.
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During their last year of high school, Macalester freshmen have consistently spent about the same amount of time studying as new freshmen at other very highly selective colleges. About 3 out of 5 new freshmen had studied at least six hours per week.
The time spent partying is considerably less than studying, and has steadily decreased since the question was first asked in 1986. In 2005, 18% of the new freshmen at other very highly selective colleges had partied 6 or more hours per week in high school. At Macalester, the percentage was even lower at 11%.
During their last year of high school, about 70% of the new freshmen had frequently socialized with someone of another racial or ethnic group. Macalester freshmen were no more likely than new freshmen at other very highly selective liberal arts colleges to socialize with students of a different race or ethnicity. Macalester freshmen were also no more likely to volunteer, although the percentage volunteering has increased from about 80% to 90% since 1985.
Once the Macalester freshmen arrive at college, however, their expectations differ in comparison to their counterparts at other very highly selective institutions. Macalester freshmen have consistently been more likely to plan to volunteer once they were in college. They also consistently place more importance on promoting racial understanding as one of their objectives and goals.
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The CIRP results show the percentage of Macalester freshmen with liberal or far left political views has reached its highest level since 1979. In the fall of 2005, about 80% of the new freshmen held liberal or far left views, compared to only about 50% in 1979.
At other very highly selective non-sectarian schools participating in the survey, the percentage of freshmen with liberal or far left political views reached its highest level in 2004 at 53%. While the freshmen at Macalester hold more liberal views, the increases in liberalism reflect steady increases nationally in all college freshmen.
Macalester's women have more liberal political views than Macalester men, but the difference between genders has decreased since 2000.
As their political views have become more liberal, so have the opinions of new freshmen on issues like marijuana and the death penalty. Agreement with legalizing marijuana and abolishing the death penalty has increased since 1979 for both Macalester freshmen and new freshmen at other very highly selective colleges. And since Macalester students are more liberal than their counterparts, their agreement with both ideas is consistently stronger.
In addition to being more liberal, Macalester students are more vocal with their political views. Macalester freshmen were more likely to discuss politics during their last year in high school. Note that in 2005, the wording of the question changed to "discussed politics frequently in class".
Macalester's new freshmen are also more likely to expect to participate in student protests while in college. The percentage expecting to participate in student protests peaked at Macalester between 1989 and 1992, and again in the most recent three years. The percentage of freshmen expecting to participate in protests at other very highly selective non-sectarian schools also peaked near 1990, but still remains lower than the Macalester percentage.
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One of the strongest factors for new freshmen in choosing a college is it's academic reputation. This factor has been consistently listed as "very important" for about 80% of new freshmen at other very highly selective institutions over the years. Macalester's new freshmen have given academic reputation slightly less importance, with about 70% listing it as "very important" in 2005.
The importance of the size of the college has remained the same since 1989, and the importance of size for Macalester's new freshmen is no different than for new freshmen at other very highly selective institutions.
The percentage of new freshmen at very highly selective institutions listing financial aid as "very important" in their college choice has increased steadily, from about 20% in 1979 to about 35% in 2005. Financial aid remains an even more important factor for Macalester's new freshmen, increasing from 28% to 51% over the same period.
A college's ability to help its students get into top grad schools or get good jobs has less importance for Macalester's new freshmen than for new freshmen at other very highly selective institutions. The percentages listing jobs and grad school as "very important" have consistently been about 10% to 20% lower for Macalester's new freshmen over the last two decades.
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The CIRP Freshmen Survey lists several objectives and asks new freshmen to indicate the importance of each to them personally. In comparison to new freshmen at other very highly selective institutions, Macalester's new freshmen generally give the more importance to influencing the political structure and participating in community action.
Macalester freshmen are also giving increasing importance to influencing social values compared to other freshmen.
However, Macalester freshmen place less importance on being very well off financially. Macalester women are especially less likely to list being well off financially as "very important" or "essential".
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When Macalester's new freshmen rate their health compared to other persons their age, they tend to rate themselves lower than new freshmen at other very highly selective institutions. Overall, self ratings in emotional health have been slowly decreasing for all new freshmen since 1985. In 2005, 57% of the new freshmen at other very highly selective institutions rated themselves highly in emotional health, compared to 49% at Macalester.
In terms of physical health, Macalester's new freshmen have consistently rated themselves lower than the other new freshmen since 1985.
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31 August 2006
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