How can prospective college students and their parents use the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) in the college search process?
What's different about NSSE versus other traditional resource or reputation rankings?
What types of questions about the undergraduate experience COULD we ASK admissions personnel and other representatives from the colleges and universities we're considering?
For parents and students making college decisions
HOW CAN I GET INFORMATION ABOUT SCHOOLS THAT I OR MY STUDENT IS INTERESTED IN ATTENDING?
Individual schools may provide their NSSE results if asked. In fact, many institutions have posted key findings from their students' responses to the survey on their institutional websites. To learn more about a specific institution's NSSE results, we encourage you to visit the institution's website or to contact the admissions office of the school directly.
Please note that our agreements with schools that participate in NSSE prevent us from reporting the results for individual colleges and universities, but we hope that broader NSSE findings can help you consider what research shows about the characteristics of a quality undergraduate education, so that you can approach schools of interest with questions that will better prepare students and parents to make a decision.
National Survey of Student Engagement cited as
In a broadcast titled "Tough Choices for Colleges and Students," Minnesota Public Radio hosted a discussion on the new challenges and opportunities in financial aid created by the economic recession for parents and students navigating the college selection process. At one point in the program, Marty O’Connell, the Executive Director of Colleges That Change Lives, noted that parents and students needed to "think differently" and look beyond institutions with high-profile reputations to those colleges and universities with more "bang for the buck," ones that would support students to do their best work. She recommended the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) website as an excellent resource to help families take a "long view" of education as a "value for a lifetime," and explained that the NSSE survey asked important questions on critical and creative thinking, on writing and speaking well, and on how students "learn to adapt" to the college environment.
To listen to the one-hour segment, please visit the Minnesota NPR website:
HOW CAN PROSPECTIVE COLLEGE STUDENTS AND THEIR PARENTS USE THE NATIONAL SURVEY OF STUDENT ENGAGEMENT (NSSE) IN THE COLLEGE SEARCH PROCESS?
The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) can be helpful in several ways. For example, in the fall of each
WHAT'S DIFFERENT ABOUT NSSE VERSUS OTHER TRADITIONAL RESOURCE OR REPUTATION RANKINGS?
"Best College" rankings are typically based almost exclusively on an institution's resources and reputation. Unfortunately, these rankings say little about the student experience. NSSE data focus on what is far more important to student learning -- how students actually use institutional resources for learning and how they feel about the quality of their educational experience. This is a much different and more accurate way to think about what to expect from a college than what rankings represent. In fact, the NSSE project has determined that a school's academic reputation, as judged by others, says very little about the extent to which active learning, student-faculty interaction, and a supportive environment characterize a campus.
WHAT TYPES OF QUESTIONS ABOUT THE UNDERGRADUATE EXPERIENCE COULD WE ASK ADMISSIONS PERSONNEL AND OTHER REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES WE'RE CONSIDERING?
According to Russ Edgerton, a national leader in education and the former director of the Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning, "Students and parents should be asking colleges the kinds of questions NSSE asks. How much do students study and how rigorous are their assignments? How much writing is expected? How often do students interact with their teachers in meaningful ways?"
Following Edgerton's recommendation, you would do well to ask questions about the extent to which students typically engage in effective educational practices. We've listed a few questions below as illustrations.
Challenging intellectual and creative work is important to student learning. Better colleges and universities emphasize the importance of academic effort and have high expectations
How much time do students spend studying each week?
Do courses challenge students to do their best?
How much writing is expected?
How much reading is expected?
Do class discussions and assignments include the perspectives of diverse groups of people?
Are students expected to use numbers or statistics throughout their coursework?
How often do students make course presentations?
2. Learning with peers
Students learn more when they share what they are learning with others, and work with each other on assignments and projects. To find out how students collaborate in the learning process inside and outside of class, ask:
How often do students work together on class projects and assignments?
Do students help each other understand difficult material?
How often do students work together to prepare for exams?
How often do students interact with others who have different viewpoints or who come from different social or economic backgrounds?
3. Experiences with faculty
When students interact with faculty inside and outside of class, their teachers become role models and mentors. To find out how well students and faculty interact, ask:
Are faculty members accessible and supportive?
Do faculty members clearly explain course goals and requirements?
Do students receive prompt and detailed feedback on tests and assignments?
How often do students talk with faculty members or advisors about their career plans?
How often do students talk with faculty members outside class about what they are learning?
How many students work on research projects with faculty?
4. Rich educational opportunities
Experiencing a variety of educational opportunities makes learning more useful and meaningful. To explore opportunities for learning, ask:
How many courses include community-based service-learning projects?
What types of honors courses, learning communities, and other distinctive programs are offered?
How many students get practical, real-world experience through internships or off-campus field experiences?
How many students study in other countries?
What co-curricular activities are most common (performing arts, athletics, fraternities and sororities, guest speakers, etc.)?
5. Campus environment
Students perform better and are more satisfied when their institutions support them academically and socially. To discover how students view the campus environment, ask:
Do students use learning support services (tutors, writing center, etc.)?
How satisfied are students with academic advising?
How well do student services staff (career planning, student activities, housing, etc.) interact with students?
What healthcare, counseling, and other wellness opportunities are available?
How well do students get along with each other?
Are students satisfied with their overall educational experience?
Student engagement is an understandable, meaningful way of thinking and talking about collegiate quality. We hope that this information about NSSE is helpful to you in your college search process.