University Surveys

Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE, "Bessie") - Summer  2006

Overview of Western's Summer 2006 BCSSE Results

Incoming freshmen were asked to complete the BCSSE instrument during their 1-1/2 day SOAR (Summer Orientation Advising and Registration) visit. Results were received in late November, but the process will be streamlined in subsequent years so that results are available early in the fall semester so results can begin well before the mid-point of these student's first semester to help promote student success.

WIU Freshmen Characteristics

The transition from high school to college is a challenge for all new students, in part because of the very different environments they have experienced.

  • 52% of incoming freshmen indicated that at least one of their parents had a 4-year college degree or higher. This is the same % as reported for Fall 2005 freshmen.
  • 88% of incoming freshmen attended public high schools and 11% attended private, religiously affiliated private high schools. Fall 2005 freshmen were similar, with 87% attending public high schools.
  • 17% of freshmen attended small high schools with graduating classes under 100 students while 24% attended large high schools with senior class sizes of 600 or more.
  • 22% of incoming freshmen indicated that they were undecided about their college major with another 32% indicating "other" than traditional arts, business, education, humanities, and science majors. This may indicate a trend to larger high schools than in 2005 where 19% of freshmen came from small schools and 23% came from large schools.

WIU Freshmen High School Coursework

Completing a rigorous, challenging curriculum has been linked to higher first-year college grades and improved chances for college graduation.

  • Fall 2006 freshmen had taken slightly a more college-prep high school curriculum than 2005 freshmen, with 97% taking 4 years of English (up from 95%), 68% taking 4 years of Math (up from 67%), 93% taking 3 years of Science (up from 92%), and 84% taking 3 years of History/Social Science (up from 82%).
  • There was also a slight increase from 37% to 39% of the number of freshmen having completed 3 years of Foreign Language in high school.

WIU Freshmen High School Academic Involvement

Students start colleges with habits they developed in high school or even before. Thus, these early habits are an indicator of what can be expected in college.

  • The Fall 2006 freshmen class tended to demonstrate higher levels of academic involvement in high school than did 2005 freshmen, a trait which should serve them well in their college endeavors.
  • Discussing grades and assignments with teachers increased from 86% to 91% and coming to class without completing readings or assignments decreased from 47% to 35%.
  • Working with other students on projects during class also increased from 91% to 95%, and working with classmates on assignments outside of class increased from 62% to 74%, while preparing 2 or more drafts of a paper before turning it in increased from 67% to 73%.
  • In addition, 52% of Fall 2006 freshmen discussed their ideas from class readings with teachers outside of class compared to only 47% in 2005, and 68% discussed their ideas with others outside of class, up from 74%.
  • WIU freshmen have traditionally asked question in class and contributed to class discussions in high school, with 95% of Fall 2005 freshmen and 96% of Fall 2006 freshmen doing so.

WIU Freshmen High School Extracurricular Involvement

Participation in extracurricular activities is high school is linked with being engaged in other productive activities and increases the changes that students will be satisfied and stay in school.

  • In Fall 2005, 75% of incoming freshmen reported being involved in ≥ 1 extracurricular activity, a number which increased slightly to 75% for the Fall 2006 freshmen. This is an outlet that will be important for them to continue in order to achieve a balanced collegiate life.
  • High school athletics continued to be the primary high school extracurricular activity, with 72% of Fall 2006 freshmen participating in high school sports, compared to 75% in 2005. Services clubs or organizations, leadership positions, and performing or visual arts programs with also popular high school extracurricular activities, each ranging from 36-39% participation.
  • Academic honor society participation decreased slightly from 25% to 23% and publications, academic clubs, and vocations clubs were least common, with participation ranging from 22-27%.

WIU Freshmen Sources of Influence

Beyond habits they have already developed, students are influence by a variety of sources which can affect their actions and efforts in college.

  • Family and friends continued to be the primary source of influence for incoming freshman regarding their expectations for college, with family member influence remaining at 85% and high school friends decreasing slightly from 85% to 83%.
  • College visits and college orientation were the second most influential sources of student college expectations, with college orientation increasing from 76% in 2005 to 84% in 2006 and campus visits increasing slightly from 80% to 82%. The importance of Western's new SOAR program could be an important factor in the increase in the influence of orientation programs on new college student expectations.
  • Friends already in college, high school guidance counselors, and high school teachers also had considerable influence regarding college expectations, with levels of influence ranging from 63% to 69%.
  • External publications and college recruiters/admissions counselors, though of some influence, had the least influence on high school students college expectations, with only 57-58% of Fall 2006 freshmen and 46-54% of Fall 2005 freshmen reporting influence by these groups.

WIU Freshmen Time Management

That the more time and energy students spend on task, the more they benefit, is a self-evident proposition. However, striking a balance in their activities is of crucial importance.

  • In Fall 2005, incoming freshmen expect to spend about 3 times as much time studying in college than they did in high school. Fall 2006 freshmen are even more prepared for the rigors of collegiate academic, expecting to spend 4 times as much time studying, increasing from 1-5 hours/week in high school to 16-20 hours/week in college.
  • While they still plan on participating in co-curricular activities in college, incoming freshmen realize that the greater academic demands will reduce their time for co-curricular activities by about 1/2, from 11-15 hours/week down to 6-10 hours/week, similar to the views of 2005 freshmen.
  • And while students expect to spend only about 1/3 of the time at work as they did in high school, just like Fall 2005 freshmen, incoming Fall 2006 freshmen expect to maintain the same level of relaxation and social activities as they did in high school, about 11-15 hours/week.

WIU Freshmen Expected Difficulties

Students enter college aware that they will face challenges in adjusting to collegiate life, but also with expectations for support. Recognizing where students anticipate difficulties and what they value as important, can help direct college programs designed to smooth the transition.

  • As with Fall 2005 freshmen, the primary difficulties Fall 2006 freshmen expect to encounter in college are being able effectively management their time and keeping up with their school work. Time management concerns decreased slightly from 83% to 82% while keeping up with school work concerns remained steady at 81%. Concerns with getting help with school work, however, increased slightly from 52% to 57%.
  • Concerns with paying for college increased from 65% for Fall 2005 freshmen to 71% for Fall 2006 freshmen.
  • Most college freshmen do not expect to have difficulty making new friends at college and this level decreased from 38% to only 31% for Fall 2006 freshmen.


Additional Fall 2006 BCSSE report findings