Today’s Current College Freshmen Are More Academically Conscious

Read the following.

 Students are

  • having intense study sessions
  • taking notes in class
  • registering for more demanding courses
  • less likely to show up drunk or late to class

The following conclusions are from a recent article written by Mary Beth Marklein in USA Today. The results are from an annual survey conducted by UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program headed by the program’s director, Dr. John Pryor.

The study, conducted last fall, was based on the responses of nearly 204,000 first-time, full–time college students at 270 colleges and universities. The annual study was first conducted 45 years ago in 1966. As one can imagine, over the past several decades since the early years of this study, the behavior and attitudes of college students have fluctuated depending on the issue at hand.

For this current year’s freshmen, “getting a better job” was their top reason for going to college. This was followed by a desire to “learn more about things that interest them.” This reason dropped to number two as the primary cause for students pursuing the path of higher education after a decade in the top spot.             

The study also demonstrated that the amount of time students spent partying had decreased as well. Pollsters found that: 

  • 71 percent said that they had taken at least one advanced placement course.
  • 39.5 percent reported spending six or more hours a week studying or doing homework as high school seniors.
  • 69.2 percent stated that they frequently rook notes in class when they were high school seniors.

What is interesting is when you contrast these numbers with the following: 

  • In 2009, 67.9 percent of students took advance placement courses.
  • In 2009 and 2010 surveys, 34.7 percent and 37.3 percent of students took such classes.
  • In 2005, a record low 31.9 percent of freshmen admitted to studying six or more hours.

Students also confessed that they were not as bored in class and were less likely to fall asleep.

Perhaps it may be just coincidental, but just a few days ago, I was discussing the current group of students who are enrolled in my honors U.S. history course with a colleague who had many of the same students last semester. I commented to him on how I was so impressed that these students came to class prepared, they clearly had read the material thoroughly and were very attentive in class. They already had informed me that they were a “ready group of young men and women.” Indeed they are and they have not disappointed me yet.

There are those like Pryor who argue that the current economic climate is a likely factor in the changing attitudes of current freshmen. Financial aid is much harder to secure, even student loans in some cases. Students who are fortunate to get an education whether it be through parental support, scholarships or other forms of financial assistance are more likely to realize that things are currently very rough in the larger world and are therefore are much less likely to harbor such a carefree attitude that could jeopardize or at the very least, derail their futures. This is particularly true for low-income college students, many who are students of color and are more likely to be dependent on such financial assistance. In short, now is not the time to be acting the fool. “Getting with the program” is the current rallying call of the moment. 

The aforementioned factors may very well result in a group of better disciplined students who are much more likely to succeed academically in college and in later life. These changes are promising.

Dr. Elwood Watson is a professor of history, African American Studies, and Gender Studies at East Tennessee State University. He is the author of several books and articles. His latest work Performing American Masculinities: The 21st Century Man in Popular Culture published by Indiana University Press.