First year survey results are not what you might think

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Image courtesy of mpihouston.org
Image courtesy of mpihouston.org
Within the first three weeks of classes, first year students take part in a survey to assess their UNB experience to understand their decision to choose UNB Saint John, specifically to analyze the demographics on campus and to learn what the campus and faculty could do to improve orientation.

This year’s information was compiled and presented by David Kilfoil of the Centre for Enhanced Teaching and Learning.

He presented the results of the first year survey to the Saint John campus on Tuesday 23, to a room of over 20 faculty and staff members.

One of the first findings presented was the fact that 91% of first year students are Canadian, and 88% of those are from within New Brunswick.

This could be a factor in the amount of students (31%) that reported having made no new friends, or only 1 or 2 friends on campus. Some commenters at the meeting suggested the cause of this high percentage (31%) is because so many UNB Saint John students are local—they either came to campus with their group of friends, or only come to go to their class and maintain their social circles off campus.

Another influence to this high percentage could be the fact that only 26% of students reported being very familiar with opportunities to get involved with campus activities (clubs and volunteering) outside the classroom, and 74% of students said they were either not familiar at all, or only somewhat familiar.

The other interesting data presented was the fact that UNB Saint John was the first choice for 71% of students, and further 48% reported only applying to UNB.

The top factor that influenced students to choose UNB Saint John was that the campus offered their program of interest. Other contributing factors for students choosing UNB Saint John was the school’s academic reputation, as well as the offering of small class sizes.

There were even students (14%) that reported being offered a scholarship to another school, but chose to turn it down and opt for UNB Saint John instead.

Taking all this into consideration it is interesting that only 50% of students plan on finishing their degree in Saint John, meaning that many students use the Saint John campus as a jumping-off point for their university studies, planning to transfer to other schools after first year.

An issue that the Saint John campus specifically reported was that 65% of students were using academic advisors for what some in attendance called the “easy stuff”, like choosing courses based on specific programs and arranging schedules.

However less than 30% of students were going to speak to their advisors about future plans or potential career advice.

One attendee who commented, “in terms of the long term impact it’s these discussions we really want to get them into,” though there were worries that this was not going to improve because, as another participant said, “some students don’t even know who their academic advisors are.”

These comments are interesting when contrasted against the Local Campus Committee report which cited statements made that some academic advisors do not have the tools to properly advise students academically.

At this meeting there were not specific, concrete plans or suggestions made for how to improve UNB Saint John based on the survey findings and most of the comments were trying to explain and give reasons to why the findings might be the way they are.

This is only UNB Saint John’s third year asking students to participate in these surveys, compared to the Fredericton campus which is ten years, and as such there is no trend data for Saint John. There was, however, debate and conversation about the possibility of trying an online survey method for the 2016-17 academic year.

Staff and faculty have been asked for comments and feedback about the report and it’s methods.