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Counseling Center

University of Maryland

College Park, Maryland

A PROFILE OF INCOMING FRESHMEN STUDENTS AT

THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, COLLEGE PARK, 1998-1999

 

V. Suthakaran & William E. Sedlacek

 

Research Report # 2-99

 

 

 

 

Computer time for this project was provided by Academic Information

Technology Services at the University of Maryland, College Park

 

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UNSC 98-99

A PROFILE OF INCOMING FRESHMAN STUDENTS AT

THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND AT COLLEGE PARK, 1998-99

 

V. Suthakaran and William E. Sedlacek

 

Research Report 2-99

 

Summary

 

The following profile was compiled from the responses of 2515 incoming freshmen at the University of Maryland, College Park during the 1998 summer orientation. Fifty percent of the sample was male and 50% was female. Sixty-seven percent of these students identified as (nonHispanic) Caucasian and 33% represented ethnic/racial minority groups, with Asian/AsianAmerican/Pacific Islander and African American comprising the larger minority groups (14% and 10%, respectively). Most of the students lived in residence halls and a smaller percentage lived with their parents. Twenty eight percent were Catholics, 16% were Jews, 11 % were Protestants, 16% reported "other," and 14% said they did not have a preference.

Over half of the sample felt that their high school prepared them well for college. The main reasons they had for going to college were to get a better job and to learn critical thinking skills. Some of the more popular reasons for attending UMCP included the kind of academic program they sought was being offered and because of the reputation of a specific program or school. More than a third of the freshmen had a major in mind and another third were sure they would not change their major. More than half of the incoming students said that they intended to pursue a graduate degree. Almost one quarter of the students reported that they would remain at the university until completion of their degree to get a better job or earn more money.

Incoming students' perceived barriers to involvement in campus life included having no time and not being sure how to get involved. Almost half of the students indicated that they do not have any plans to work during their first year at the university. Almost a third of the students indicated that they expect to have a hard time adjusting to academic work. Most of the incoming freshmen expected to graduate in 4 years. Eighty-four percent of the students indicated that they would be using their own computer and almost half used the computer between 2-6 hours a week.

Receiving counseling regarding educational and career/vocational plans was a popular response among the incoming students. More than half of the students reported that they would be interested in improving their study skills. Almost of the students reported that religion was important in their lives. Almost half of the students reported that they were unsure if they would be comfortable being part of a small non-traditional religious group. More than a third of the students said that they were not sure about what they believe and don't believe about religion.

 

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The University New Student Census was administered to 2515 incoming freshmen during their summer orientation to the university. Fifty percent of the sample was male and 50% was female. Most of these students were 17 (36%) or 18 (61%) years of age at the time they completed the survey. Their racial/ethnic composition was mainly Caucasian (67%). The largest racial/ethnic minority groups represented by this incoming class were Asian/Asian American/Pacific Islander (14%), and African American (10%). This was followed by Hispanic/Latin (4%) and Native American/American Indian/Alaskan Native (< 1 %). Two percent of the students reported being biracial or multiracial and another 3% reported "other."

In terms of disabilities, 90% of the students reported none and 4% reported "other." Students who were hard of hearing and with Attention Deficit Disorder were 3% each. The rest of the categories were all below 1 %.

Asked about their religious preference, 28% of the students reported that they were Catholics, 16% were Jews, 11 % were Protestants, 16% reported "other," 14% said they did not have a preference, and 6% preferred not to answer the question. The other preferences were: atheist (4%), Hindu (2%), Muslim (2%), and Buddhist (1%).

The majority of incoming freshmen (85%) lived in residence halls or with their parents (12%). Seventeen percent of the responding students reported ranking in the top fifth of their class in high school; 24% in the top tenth; 36% in the top quarter; and 22% in the upper half of their graduating class. One percent ranked in the lower half and less than 1 % in the bottom quarter of their graduating class in high school. Most had their health insurance covered by their parents (75%) and some (10%) had their insurance covered through an HMO/PPO. Three percent had no health insurance coverage and 9% did not know their health insurance status.

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Educational/Career Development

The principal reasons incoming freshmen had for going to college were to get a better job

(54%) and to learn critical thinking skills (23%). Another popular response was to gain an

education (17%). In terms of the highest degree they intended to obtain, most of the students

reported that they would like to obtain a masters degree (40%). Twenty eight percent reported

the intention to obtain a doctorate and 10 % a bachelors as their highest academic degree.

Adjustment to College

Over half of the sample (57%) felt that their high school prepared them well for college. Ten percent felt high school did not prepare them well for college and 26% were neutral.

Almost a third of the incoming freshmen (28%) perceived having no barriers to getting involved in campus activities. Other perceived barriers to involvement in campus life included having no time (25%), not being sure how to get involved (11 %), conflict with work schedule (7%), and friends living off-campus (4%).

Retention

More than one third of the incoming freshmen (34%) felt the most likely reason why they would remain at the university until completion of their degree would be to get a better job and earn more money. Another 18% believed that a college degree is the only way to enter their chosen profession. Twenty-one percent saw obtaining a degree as a necessary step to graduate or professional school. Thirteen percent responded that their motivation stemmed from enjoying academics.

When asked what would be the most likely reason they would leave the university' before receiving a degree, over a third of the students (37%) responded that they were certain they

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would receive the degree. Eighteen percent mentioned cost as the most likely reason they would leave prior to graduation. Twenty-five percent said they would leave due to disinterest in their field of study. Six percent said that they would leave if they perceived a lack of academic ability. Most of the students (92/0) did not think that they would temporarily drop out of school before earning their bachelors degree.

Major

More than a third (36%) reported that they had a major in mind, but were considering several other possibilities. Another third of the students (33%) reported that they were sure they would not change their major. Fifteen percent said that they have a general idea of what they wanted to study. Twelve percent of the students said that they have a couple of general areas of interest, but are not sure of what they would like to study. Asked if they might end up majoring in a different academic field from the one that now seems appropriate for them, 44% reported that they would not and 17% reported that they would. Thirty-eight percent of the students reported neutral to the item.

Work

When asked about employment plans during their first year at the university, 44% indicated that they did not intend to work. Twenty-one percent indicated that they would work off-campus. Nine percent planned on working in a federally-funded work/study program and 15% expected to be employed in other on-campus work. Ten percent of the respondents indicated that their work status during their freshman year would involve more than one of the given options.

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More than a third of the students (37%) said that they worked to earn extra spending money. Twenty-six percent said that they worked to help pay for their education. Some of the students (12%) worked to gain job experience related to anticipated major.

Job Placement and Expectations

Over a quarter of the students (26%) indicated that intrinsic interest in the field was important in terms of their long-term career choice, whereas, 19% said that it was high anticipated earnings. Fifteen percent said that making an important contribution to society was important in their long-term career choice. Ten percent said that a well respected or prestigious occupation would be important. Nine percent said that it would be important for them to work with people. A few of the students reported that careers with rapid advancement (6%) and with job openings usually available as being important . In terms of a major perceived barrier to meeting their career goals, more than a third of the students (36%) chose managing time. Twenty-four percent said personal finances and another 20% reported a lack of direction as perceived barriers. Limited job availability (10%) and lack of motivation (19%) were also reported as perceived barriers.

Attitudes Toward UMCP

The reasons behind why most of these students decided to attend UMCP were because it offered the kind of academic program they sought (23%) and the reputation of a specific program or school (20%). Geographical location (17%) and relatively inexpensive cost (13%) were also cited as reasons for attending UMCP. A few of the students (11 %) said that they decided to attend UMCP because they were admitted to a special program (e.g., Honors, CPS, etc.).

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Academic Issues

Ninety-eight percent of freshmen felt their family had always wanted them to go to college. Less than 1% reported that their relatives did not expect them to go to college. Most of the students (91%) felt confident that they had some someone to listen to them and help them should they encounter problems related to school. Eight percent were neutral and 2% did not feel confident that they had such resources.

Twenty-eight percent strongly agreed (3%) or agreed (25%) with the statement, "I expect to have a hard time adjusting to the academic work of college." Another 38% neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement. The remaining 33% disagreed (29%) or strongly disagreed (4%) with it.

Approximately one third of incoming freshmen agreed (30%) and another 11 % strongly agreed with the statement that they did not expect difficulty with math courses, whereas almost one in four felt neutral (23%). Twenty-six percent did not feel very confident in their ability to perform in math courses and 10% did not feel confident at all.

Most of the incoming freshmen (83%) expected to graduate in 4 years. Ten percent expected to graduate in 5 years, and 6% in less than 4 years. Less than 10% said they expected to graduate in more than 5 years or not to graduate at all.

When asked about the characteristics they liked most in a teacher, 51% of them said they liked someone with a good style of delivery of material. Seventeen percent liked someone with a good sense of humor and 8% preferred someone who knows the material. Other characteristics were: clear expectations (8%), well organized classes (8%), and availability after class (6%).

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In terms of different programs they were involved in, 51 % said that they did not belong to any of the programs listed. Twenty-one percent were involved in the College Park Scholars Program. Twelve percent said that they were involved in "other" programs.

Computer Use

Eighty-four percent of the incoming students indicated that they would be using their own computer. When questioned about which type of computer they were most comfortable with, most indicated IBM or IBM compatible PC (81 %). Eleven percent felt most comfortable with Apple/MacIntosh and 4% reported "other." Four percent maintained they did not feel comfortable with computers.

More than half of the students (52%) reported that their activity on the computer is mostly related to school-work. Twenty percent used it mostly for e-mail and another 12% to surf the Web. Nine percent said that the activity they engaged in most on the computer was playing games.

Almost half of the students (47%) used the computer between 2-6 hours a week. Twenty percent used it for less than an hour and 17% used it between 6-10 hours a week. Eight percent reported to using the computer between 11 and 20 hours, and another 8% reported using the computer for more than 20 hours. In terms of time spent on the Internet, almost half (44/0) reported less than an hour a week. Thirty-nine percent said they spent between 2-6 hours on the Internet and 10% between 6-10 hours weekly. Only 4 % spent between 11-20 hours and 3 more than 20 hours a week on the Internet.

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Extracurricular/Social activities

Given some free time, more than 51% of the incoming freshmen indicated they would most likely spend it socializing with friends. Others responded they would most likely participate in sports/exercise (16%) or team sport/athletics (13%). Four percent indicated they would read a book, while others preferred watching television (3%) or seeing a movie (1%). Three percent of the respondents reported they would get a job, and another 3% responded that they would most-likely do volunteer work. When asked which extracurricular activity is of the most interest to them, the most popular responses were intramural sports or activities (32%), followed by participating in musical or dramatic organization (13%), student publications/communications (8%) and special interest groups other than sports, games, hobbies, etc, (8%). Other responses included volunteer services (6%), political or social action groups (6%), and religious groups (3%), and departmental subject matter groups (3%), and "other" (8%).

Ten percent of incoming students indicated that they expect to be lonely during their freshman year. Eighteen percent did not agree or disagree with the expectation. The majority (72%) did not expect to be lonely during their freshman year.

Help Seeking Behavior

When asked which area would they most likely be interested in seeking counseling or educational skills services while at UMCP, the more popular responses were counseling regarding educational and career/vocational plans (40%), learning to study more efficiently (15%), improving writing skills (13%), and developing a larger vocabulary (6%). Fifteen percent of the students indicated they were not interested in seeking any counseling or educational skills at the time.

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Eighty-five percent of incoming freshmen reported an interest in seeking counseling regarding career plans and only 4% of them denied any interest in vocational/Career counseling. Eleven percent responded neutral to the item. In contrast, most students (76%) denied any interest in seeking counseling for problems with drugs or alcohol. Twenty-seven percent of the students responded neutral. However, 20% of the respondents expressed an interest in counseling regarding social or emotional concerns, and (39%) denied an interest in such services. Thirty-five percent responded neutral to the item. More than half of the incoming freshmen (54%) expressed interest in improving their study skills and only some (21%) did not profess any interest. Thirty-four percent responded neutral.

Twenty-seven percent of the students said that they would consider seeking stress management training while at Maryland. However, 32% did not show any interest in the training. Forty-one percent remained neutral.

Socio-Political Attitudes and Awareness

Forty-six percent of the incoming freshmen agreed that most of their friends were of their own race, with another 13% agreeing strongly with this statement. Seventeen percent were neutral. Another 17% disagreed and 7% strongly disagreed, suggesting that most of their friends were of a different racial/ethnic background than their own. Sixty-five percent of the students reported having a close friend of a different race. A large number, however, disagreed (17%) or strongly disagreed (4%) with the statement that they had a close friend of a different race. Fourteen percent responded neutral. Most students (92%) expressed that they looked forward to meeting people different from themselves at UMCP and only 10% denied any interest in meeting people of diverse backgrounds.

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More than half of these students reported agreeing (47%) or strongly agreeing (14%) that they discuss topics related to cultural awareness with their friends. However, 12 ) of the incoming students reportedly do not address such subjects with their friends. Twenty-six percent responded neutral.

In order to explore students' attitudes about their own purposes and goals while at college, students were presented with four statements which gauged their philosophy of education. One-third of the students (34%) viewed college as primarily to prepare students for a career. Another third (33%) viewed college as a place to be highly involved in social and other extracurricular activities. Almost another third (27%) viewed college as a place for the cultivation of the intellect, and pursuit of knowledge and ideas.

Religious Values

Forty-two percent of the incoming freshmen said that they would be uncomfortable being part of a small non-traditional religious group. Only 17% of the students said that they would be comfortable being part of the group. However, 41 % of the students did not say they would be comfortable or uncomfortable being part of a small non-traditional religious group. Most of the students (89%) said that they were tolerant of other religions. Nine percent responded neutral. Almost half of the incoming students (47%) reported that religion was important in their lives. Twenty-five percent said religion was not important in their lives and 28% responded neutral to the item. Most of the students (85%) said that they were aware of the beliefs of religions other than their own. Twelve percent responded neutral. Most of the students said that religious cults were bad for all students. However, almost a third (32%) of the students responded neutral.

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Almost a third (31 %) of the students said that they consider themselves to be spiritual but not religious. More than a third did agree that they were (36%) spiritual but not religious. Almost another third (31 %) responded neutral to the item. Only 20% of the freshmen said that they believed their religion was the one true religion. More than half (52%) did not think that their religion was the one true religion. However, 28% of the freshmen responded neutral to the item. Most of the students (70%) said that they know basically what they believe and don't believe regarding religious beliefs.

Twenty-one percent of the students reported neutral to the item. More than a third of the freshmen (37%) said that they have spent a good deal of time reading and talking to others about religious ideas. However, almost an equal number (38%) said that they have not spent much time on religion. Twenty-five percent of the incoming freshmen responded neutral to the item.

Twenty percent of the students said that they were not really sure what they believed about religion. However, most of the students (58%) were sure what they believed about religion. Twenty-one percent responded neutral to the item. Furthermore, 38% of the students stated that they have not really had any serious doubts about what they believe and don't believe about religion. However, more than a third (37%) said that they have had serious doubts about what they believe and don't believe about religion.