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USC Freshmen Healthy, Engaged, Survey Says

by Meaghan Agnew

More than 2,000 incoming USC freshmen and 194 USC transfer students participated in the annual survey.

This year’s prototypical USC freshman was healthy, academically and socially engaged and more success-oriented than peers at other highly selective private schools, according to the 2004 National Freshman Survey.

Each fall, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA administers the survey to more than 250,000 students. This past September, 2,243 incoming USC freshmen and 194 USC transfer students participated.

One of the most positive results from the survey, said Mark Pavelchak, director of Student Outcomes Research, concerned the USC freshman’s general health practices.

Exercising levels were at an all-time high, while the percentage of students who reported smoking frequently was at an all-time low.

Entering students also had a positive take on their capabilities; perceived academic and artistic abilities were near all-time highs.

Another positive result: This year’s participants demonstrated an increased commitment to growth outside the classroom. All-time highs were seen in the numbers who reported reading for pleasure, tutoring, playing a musical instrument and being involved in student organizations.

One of the most surprising findings concerned volunteering. More freshmen than ever reported having volunteered in high school, yet the number of freshmen who said they planned to volunteer in college dropped from last year.

“It could be that too many students are required to volunteer while in high school and resent it, or maybe that our very talented students realize that there will be a lot of competition for grades, forcing them to put everything but studying in second place,” Pavelchak said.

Another surprising result concerned self-understanding. Despite their academic and extracurricular accomplishments, freshmen ranked their intellectual self-confidence and perceived physical and emotional health at all-time low levels.

“There is nothing unique about USC students in this respect � both statistics are consistent with national trends,” Pavelchak said. “But it is clear that something � the media, the schools � is having a negative effect on the way students see themselves.”

USC freshmen differ in several significant ways from their peers at other highly selective schools (defined as private universities with an average entering SAT score greater than 1310).

Freshmen are more focused on career and financial success and their interests in graduate or professional schools differ. There is greater interest in masters program and less interest in earning an M.D. or Ph.D., according to the survey.

First-year students are also more diverse demographically than their counterparts at other schools, and a much larger percentage live within 100 miles of campus.

As in years past, the percentage of students that identified USC’s social reputation as a factor that drew them to the university was higher than at other elite universities.

Pavelchak stressed that a broader connotation of USC’s social reputation should be applied to this result.

“I truly believe that the ‘social activities’ factor is not a ‘party’ factor but rather a social networking factor,” Pavelchak said. “Students who come here really buy into the Trojan network concept.”

Complete results of the survey are available at

USC Freshmen Healthy, Engaged, Survey Says

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