Each year, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) asks students at hundreds of colleges and universities to reflect on the time they devote to various learning activities. The topics explored are linked by previous research on student success in college.

Results from the NSSE can provide prospective students with insights into how they might learn and develop at a given college. To that end, NSSE developed A Pocket Guide to Choosing a College to provide students and parents key questions to ask during campus visits.

The following responses are culled from Lafayette College students who participated in the most recent NSSE survey.

Academic Challenge

To what degree is studying and spending time on academic work emphasized?
88% of first-year students feel that this institution places substantial emphasis on academics.

Do faculty hold students to high standards?
49% of first-year students frequently work harder than they thought they could to meet faculty expectations.

How much time do students spend on homework each week?
55% of first-year students spend more than 15 hours per week preparing for class; 4% spend 5 hours or less.

What types of thinking do assignments require?
First-year students report substantial emphasis on the following activities:

  • Memorizing facts, ideas, or methods: 64%
  • Analyzing basic elements of an idea or theory: 89%
  • Synthesizing and organizing ideas: 77%
  • Making judgments about the value of information: 73%
  • Applying theories or concepts: 79%

How much writing is expected?
38% of first-year students write more than 10 papers that are between 5 and 19 pages, and 18% have written a paper more than 20 pages in length.

How much reading is expected during the school year?
44% of first-year students read more than 10 assigned books and course packs of readings; 13% read fewer than 5.

Do exams require students to do their best work?
63% of first-year students report that their exams strongly challenge them to do their best work.

Active Learning

How often are topics from class discussed outside of the classroom?
61% of first-year students frequently discuss readings or ideas from coursework outside of class.

Do students work together on projects inside and outside of class?
28% of first-year students frequently work with other students on projects in class; 53% work with peers on assignments outside of class.

How often do students make class presentations?
19% of first-year students report that they make frequent presentations in class.

How many students participate in community-based projects in regular courses?
10% of first-year students frequently participate in service-learning or community-based projects during a given year; 74% never took part in such activities.

How many students apply their classroom learning to real life through internships or off-campus field experiences?
By their senior year, 78% of students have participated in some form of practicum, internship, field experience, co-op, or clinical assignment.

Do students have opportunities to tutor or teach other students?
40% of seniors frequently assist their fellow students by tutoring or teaching them.

Student-Faculty Interaction

Are faculty members accessible and supportive?
92% of first-year students say their faculty are available, helpful, and sympathetic.

How many students work on research projects with faculty?
By their senior year, 50% of students have done research with a faculty member.

Do students receive prompt feedback on academic performance?
64% of first-year students indicate that they frequently get prompt verbal or written feedback from faculty members.

How often do students talk about their career plans with advisers or faculty members?
92% of seniors at least occasionally discuss career plans with faculty; 8% never talk with faculty members about career plans.

Do students and faculty members work together on committees and projects outside of course work?
50% of first-year students at least occasionally spend time with faculty members on activities other than coursework.

Enriching Educational Experiences

What types of honors courses, learning communities, and other distinctive programs are offered?
During their first year, 4% of students participate in a learning community. By their senior year, 41% of students have taken an independent study class.

How often do students interact with peers with different social, political, or religious views?
63% of first-year students say they frequently have serious conversations with students whose religious, political, or personal beliefs differ from their own.

How often do students interact with peers from different racial or ethnic backgrounds?
63% of first-year students frequently have serious conversations with those of a different race.

How many students study in other countries?
By their senior year, 53% of students have studied abroad.

Do students participate in activities that enhance their spirituality?
20% of first-year students frequently engage in spiritually enhancing activities, such as worship, meditation, or prayer.

What percentage of students participate in community service?
By the time they are seniors, 79% of students have participated in community service or volunteer work.

Supportive Campus Environment

How well do students get along with other students?
87% of first-year students report that their peers are friendly, supportive, and give them a sense of belonging.

Are students satisfied with their overall educational experience?
95% of first-year students rate their experience as good or excellent; 83% of seniors would choose this school again if they could start their college career over.

How much time do students devote to co-curricular activities?
57% of first-year students spend at least 5 hours a week participating in co-curricular activities; 7% do not participate in such activities.

How well do students get along with administrators and staff?
68% of first-year students find the administrative personnel and offices helpful, considerate, and flexible.

How much does the school help students with their academic and social needs?
89% of first-year students feel that this institution provides substantial support for their academic success; 49% perceive substantial support for their social needs.

Visit the National Survey of Student Engagement website