GW’s incoming class is more interested in learning and discussing politics than the general college freshman population, according to surveys of the high school habits of college freshmen conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education and GW.
The Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac published a yearly compilation of statistical information about college students and universities nationwide Sept. 1. GW freshmen participated in the survey at all five Colonial Inauguration sessions.
About 48 percent of freshmen nationwide listed academic reputation as a very important consideration when choosing a college – making that factor most important in the freshmen’s college choice.
About 69 percent of GW’s freshmen listed academic reputation as very important when choosing to attend the school, said Cheryl Beil, GW director of academic planning and assessment.
The most common reason freshmen gave for attending GW is to learn more about things that interest them, Biel said. About 84 percent of GW freshmen listed this as a reason for attending college, compared to 72 percent of freshmen nationwide, according to the survey.
This year it also seemed that a lot of freshmen had a connection to the University through older siblings or friends who have already attended George Washington, said Mark Levine, assistant dean of students.
The second-highest factor nationally and at GW was that graduates of the school get good jobs. Beil said about 63 percent of GW freshmen listed getting a job as an important factor to consider, compared to 45 percent of freshmen nationwide.
Almost eight percent of students nationally said rankings in national magazines were very important when they selected a college. The Sept. 1 issue of U.S. News and World Report ranked GW in the second tier of colleges and universities for the second consecutive year.
GW officials said the Chronicle of Education survey did not include one of the drawing points that makes GW popular among prospective students – location.
From talking to students at CI, many said they were attracted to the idea of being in D.C., especially during a campaign year, Levine said.
GW freshmen also have different reasons for attending college than many freshmen nationwide, according to the survey.
About 63 percent of GW freshmen said they came to GW to become more cultured, while only about 35 percent of freshmen nationally listed this as a reason for going to college.
Job prospect factors were cited less frequently by GW freshmen as motivators for attending college than freshmen nationwide, according to the survey.
Nationwide more freshmen said they are attending college to get a job than for any other reason, according to the survey. About 73 percent of the respondents to the survey gave this as a reason for attending, while only 64 percent of GW freshmen listed a future job as a main motivator.
It’s just something you do, freshman Melissa Riley said. You graduate from high school, you go to college, you get a job.
Being able to make more money was also a common response, as 71 percent of students nationally chose that response. About 62 percent of GW students cited making money as a reason for attending college, Beil said.
The survey also asked incoming freshmen to describe what activities they were involved in during their senior year of high school. GW’s figures showed strong student involvement in religious activities.
Beil said about 79 percent of incoming freshmen reported going to a religious service either frequently or occasionally, which is just off the national percentage of about 80 percent.
But some students said they are skeptical about these numbers.
Parental influence when you’re in high school is very strong, freshman Joann Spinale said. Those numbers don’t necessarily show how much faith students have since their parents may have made them go.
A larger portion of GW freshmen take part in political discussions than freshmen nationwide, according to the survey. About 40 percent of GW freshmen responded that they frequently take part in political discussions, compared to 15 percent of freshmen nationwide.
GW freshmen are also above the curve on community service, according to the survey. Beil said about 90 percent of GW freshmen participated in some form of volunteerism, but 66 percent of those participated as a part of a class requirement. More than 75 percent of students nationally had volunteered before.
GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said the survey results reflect a marked improvement in the quality of GW’s student population.
They seem to not only be more academically robust than the classes that preceded them, but also handsomer, Trachtenberg said about this year’s freshmen.
-Sarah Lechner contributed to this report.