Western Educational Longitudinal Study (WELS)

The Office of Survey Research (OSR) is responsible for developing and administering the Western Educational Longitudinal Study (WELS), including baseline surveys of incoming students, second-year surveys, exit surveys of graduating students, and alumni surveys. See WELS Survey Design.

Combined with university admission and registrar data, these longitudinal surveys paint a broad picture of the Western experience from enrollment through a year or two after graduation. The purpose of the WELS is fourfold: 

    1. To assess student needs based upon their self-reported characteristics, perceptions, and concerns;
    2. To provide data that can be used to assess academic and co-curricular programs;
    3. To provide baseline entry data that can be used as statistical controls in analyses that offset the inability to conduct randomized studies; and
    4. To maintain an ongoing record of student knowledge acquisition, ability levels, and other general education outcomes to address concerns of accountability and accreditation. Unlike national studies, the WELS survey instrument can be tailored to fit Western’s needs, including, if needed, a replication of national survey questions to make direct comparisons with other institutions.

Research that does not fit within the WELS series, such as special topic surveys or focus-groups, or surveys of faculty or staff are handled by OSR at the request of the provost.

OSR uses a mixture of on-line and telephone survey and focus-group methodologies. We own a universal Snap Surveys license and hope to make the software available free of charge to researchers on campus as part of a campus-wide survey research policy. 

WELS Data:

Freshmen cohorts

Transfer cohorts

Freshmen Entering Fall 2013

Fall 2012 Baseline of Incoming Freshmen. Of the 2,875 Fall 2013 freshmen, OSR received 2,583 responses; a response rate of 89.8%.

Freshmen Entering Fall 2012

Spring 2014 Follow-up Survey of Freshmen Who entered Western in Fall of 2012. This survey targeted native freshmen (including running start students) who entered Western in the Fall of 2012.
These students were completing their second full year on campus at the time of the survey (Spring, 2014). Of the 2,103 students in the second year cohort, OSR
received responses from 1,322, a response rate of 62.9%.

Fall 2012 Baseline of Incoming Freshmen. Of the 2,875 Fall 2012 freshmen, OSR received 2,583 responses; a response rate of 89.8%.

Freshmen Entering Fall 2011

Spring 2013 Follow-up Survey of Freshmen Who entered Western in Fall of 2011. This survey targeted native freshmen (including running start students) who entered Western in the Fall of 2011.
These students were completing their second full year on campus at the time of the survey (Spring, 2013). Of the 2,153 students in the second year cohort, OSR
received responses from 1,313, a response rate of 61.0%.

Fall 2011 Baseline of Incoming Freshmen. Of the 2,861 Fall 2011 freshmen, OSR received 2,311 responses; a response rate of 80.7%. The survey covers the following topics: pre-college engagement and experiences; the college application process; class schedule and expectations; skills, goals and expectations; expenses and employment; items requested by the Office of Sustainable Transportation.

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Freshmen Entering Fall 2010

Spring 2012 Follow-up Survey of Freshmen who Entered Western in Fall of 2010. This survey targeted native freshmen (including running start students) who entered Western in the Fall of 2010. These students were completing their second full year on campus at the time of the survey (Spring, 2012). Of the 2,182 students in the second year cohort, OSR received responses from 1,443, a response rate of 66.1%.

Fall 2010 Baseline of Incoming Freshmen. This report presents findings from the WELS Baseline Survey of Freshmen Entering Western in the Fall, 2010. Of the 2,920 Fall 2010 freshmen, 2,427 responded to the survey; a response rate of 83.1%. The survey is divided into five broad subject areas: pre-college engagement and experiences; the college application process; familiarity and comfort with Western; skills, goals and expectations; expenses and employment.

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Freshmen Entering Fall 2009

Spring 2011 Follow-up Survey of Freshmen Who Entered Western in Fall of 2009. The Spring 2011 Follow-Up Survey of Freshmen Who Entered Western in 2009 (2nd Year Survey) is part of a longitudinal effort to survey students with a goal to improve educational programs and provide self-assessment data. Together with the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, OSR designed this survey in an attempt to shed light on the efficacy and satisfaction with first year and GUR programs. In addition, a number of campus offices submitted questions to help assess their programs. Among these are the Math Center, the Honors Program, Western Libraries, University Residences, Environmental Health and Safety, and the Renewable Energy Degree initiative.

Freshmen Who Plan to Transfer (Analysis). On the 2009 WELS baseline survey of incoming fall 2009 freshmen, thirteen percent indicate some likelihood of transferring prior to graduation. Western administrators are interested in the retention rate of these students, as well as demographic and educational history characteristics. OSR provides a brief exploratory analysis of these questions.

Fall 2009 Baseline of Incoming Freshmen. This report presents findings from the fall, 2009 baseline survey of entering freshmen. Of the 2,696 Fall 2009 freshmen, 2,454 responded to the survey (a response rate of 91.0%). The survey is divided into five broad subject areas: pre-college engagement and experiences; the college application process; familiarity and comfort with Western; skills, goals and expectations; expenses and employment.

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Freshmen Entering Fall 2008

Spring 2010 Follow-up Survey of Freshmen Who Entered Western in Fall of 2008. This survey holds particular importance to Western in that it focuses on student experiences in first year programs and GUR courses. Together with the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and the Committee for Undergraduate Education, OSR created this survey in an attempt to shed light on the efficacy of and satisfaction with programs designed to foster student success early in their Western careers.

Fall 2008 Baseline of Incoming Freshmen. This report presents findings from the fall, 2008, baseline survey of entering freshmen, with or without college credit from high school, a total of 2693 students. There were 1533 online responses and 608 phone responses, for an 80% response rate. By design, the 2008 WELS baseline survey of freshmen was shortened from previous year’s WELS baseline surveys. Survey topics included Summerstart and summer preparation for college, high school engagment, academic self perception, and general college preparedness.

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Freshmen Entering Fall 2007

Fall 2007 Baseline of Incoming Freshmen. This report presents findings from the fall, 2007, baseline survey of entering freshmen. The sample was of all entering freshmen, with or without college credit from high school, a total of 2392 students. There were a total of 1786 responses (a 75% response rate). Survey topics included Summerstart, logistic confidence, motivation and expectations, academic and social engagement and challenges while in high school, a current assessment of academic skills and competencies, academic priorities and study strategies, and issues related to health, wellness, and alcohol use.

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Freshmen Entering Fall 2005

Spring 2008 Follow-Up of Freshmen Entering Fall 2005. Of the 2386 students who began as freshmen in the fall of 2005, 1864 enrolled at Western in the spring, 2008. This cohort was invited to participate in this report’s survey. OSR received 919 responses, for a response rate of 49%. The survey was administered both online and via telephone. There were 763 online responses and 156 telephone responses. This report presents the frequencies from that survey administration.

Spring 2007 Follow-Up of Freshmen Entering Fall 2005. This report presents findings from the spring, 2007, two-year follow-up survey of students who had entered as freshmen in fall, 2005. Survey topics included respondents’ use of and satisfaction with academic advising; use of academic technologies; attitudes towards academic and social engagement; experiences with courses and resources; successes and challenges; and health and learning strategies issues.

Spring 2006 Follow-up of Freshmen Entering Fall 2005. The major focus of this survey was to follow-up on changes in personal learning traits assessed in the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ). Separate subsets of the sample were given questions on perceived requirement for academic success, academic self-concept, academic reflection, academic motivations, study styles, and learning styles. In addition, questions from previous baseline and follow-up surveys were included on participation in first-year programs, student services, and academic advising and tutorial services; course selection and registration experiences; attitudes toward GURs, the culture at Western, and service learning; academic skills and competencies; academic and social engagement; academic and personal difficulties; work experiences; perceptions of the first-year transition; intentions regarding transferring and graduating on time; and general attitudes.

Fall 2005 Transitions Survey. This report presents findings from the end-of-fall-quarter, 2005, "transitions" survey for freshmen. Questions were designed to help better understand the nature of their first quarter experience with respect to their personal, social and academic adjustment; the kinds of personal, financial, and academic pressures and difficulties they experienced; their use of student services (including advising) and newly implemented student services programs (e.g., an enhanced "Western Reads" program); and their overall satisfaction with Western after one quarter. Most of these same questions were also asked of the fall, 2005, incoming transfer students, thus facilitating comparisons between these two groups, keeping in mind, of course, that the transfers had junior standing during this first quarter.

Fall 2005 Baseline of In-coming Freshmen focuses on initial perceptions and expectations; academic self-perceptions; college preparedness, concern, and motivation; high school experiences; and personal self-perceptions.

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Freshmen Entering Fall 2003

See WELS Data Bytes for the 2003 cohort.

The 2003-2007 Common Items Chart indicates students' comfort level with academic skills and competencies (2003 baseline compared to Spring 2007 follow-up).

Spring 2007 Follow-up of Freshmen Entering Fall 2003. This report presents findings from the spring, 2007, four-year follow-up survey of students who had entered as freshmen in fall, 2003. Given that the sample consisted of students who were in their fourth year of study and expected to have made a decision about their major field of study, one focus of this survey was on the process of declaring and changing majors, double majors, and minors. This survey also included a lengthy section on writing—students’ writing experiences in general and in their writing proficiency courses. The cohort was also asked about their experiences in upper division courses and in their chosen academic departments. These students were asked about their experiences with or attitudes toward study abroad opportunities. In addition, questions from previous baseline and follow-up surveys were included on their use of and satisfaction with student services (including academic advising and tutorial services); attitudes toward the culture at Western; academic skills and competencies; academic and social engagement; academic and personal difficulties; and work experiences.

Spring 2006 Follow-up of Freshmen Entering Fall 2003. This survey focused on the process of declaring and changing majors, double majors, and minors; experiences in upper division courses and in their chosen academic departments; and experiences with or attitudes toward study abroad opportunities. In addition, questions from previous baseline and follow-up surveys were included on students' use of and satisfaction with student services (including academic advising and tutorial services); attitudes toward the culture at Western; academic skills and competencies; academic and social engagement; academic and personal difficulties; and work experiences.

Spring 2005 Follow-up of Freshmen Entering Fall 2003 was administered to a random sample of 1489 sophomores who were new freshmen in Fall 2003. Topics included: registration process, major, advising, academic activities, GURs, work, experiences, difficulties, and uses of academic and library technologies.

Students and Academic-Oriented Technology: A Longitudinal Study focuses on student use of email and comfort level with academic-oriented technology. Two data sets were used: 1) the end of the first year follow-up administered in Spring 2004; and 2) the end of the sophomore year follow-up, administered in Spring 2005.

Student Attitudes Toward General University Requirements (GURs) presents findings related to GUR expectations and attitudes, pedagogy, overall satisfaction, and how First-Year Interest Group (FIG) enrollment relates to these factors.

Student Contact With Their Academic Advisors presents findings from the Spring 2004 Follow-up of Freshmen, specifically about academic advising. These survey findings were then supplemented with Data Warehouse findings on high school grade point average (hsgpa), first quarter Western grade point average, and SAT scores.

Longitudinal Analysis From 2003-2004 Freshmen Surveys presents findings from three multi-itemed questions, plus a fourth single item question, asked in each of the three survey administrations (above). Two questions focus on students' transition to Western, one question focuses on student expectations, and one asks how well students throughout their high school experience prepared them for college.

Spring 2004 Follow-up of Freshmen Entering Fall 2003 represents the third freshmen survey to be conducted during this cycle. The data from all three reports provide the most comprehensive, appropriate and complete information Western has ever gathered on its incoming students.

Fall 2003 Freshmen Transitions Survey targeted freshmen in their first quarter at Western. By exploring prior high school and early college experiences of new freshmen, patterns in student characteristics and behavior may shed light on the problem of first quarter transitions.

Fall 2003 Baseline of In-Coming Freshmen was administered in Summer of 2003. This survey covered students' high school experiences and activities (both academic and personal), their expectations for college, and their family and personal background.

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Transfers Entering 2013

WELS Baseline Survey of Transfers Entering Western in the Fall, 2013. Of the 1,042 transfer students entering the fall of 2013, OSR received responses from 724, a response rate of 69.5%. Topics included: previous college engagement and experiences, the college application process, course scheduling, academic skills and goals, major choice, expenses and employment, and demographics.

Transfers Entering 2012

WELS Baseline Survey of Transfers Entering Western in the Fall, 2012. Of the 1,096 transfer students entering the fall of 2012, OSR received responses from 804, a response rate of 73.4%. Topics included: Previous college engagement and experiences; college application process; class schedule and expectations; academic skills and goals; major choice and declaration; expenses and employment; technology; demographics.

Transfers Entering 2011

WELS Baseline Survey of Transfers Entering Western in the Fall, 2011. Of the 1,114 transfer students entering the fall of 2011, OSR received responses from 760, a response rate of 68.2%. Survey topics included: Previous college engagement and experiences; college application process; class schedule and expectations; academic skills and goals; major choice and declaration; expenses and employment; demographics; and items requested by the Office of Sustainable Transportation.

Transfers Entering 2010

WELS Baseline Survey of Transfers Entering Western in the Fall, 2010 - Addendum. This addendum breaks down the data by college.

WELS Baseline Survey of Transfers Entering Western in the Fall, 2010. Of the 1,047 transfer students entering in the fall of 2010, OSR received responses from 614, a response rate of 58.6%. Survey topics included: previous college engagement and experiences; college application process; familiarity and comfort with Western; skills, goals and expectations; major choice and declaration; expenses and employment; and demographics.

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Transfers Entering 2009

WELS Baseline Survey of Students Entering as Transfers Fall, 2009. Of the 898 Fall 2009 transfer students, 534 responded to the Survey, a response rate of 59.5%. The Survey is divided into six subject areas: previous college engagement and experiences; the most recent college application process; familiarity and comfort with Western; skills, goals and expectations; expenses and employment; and demographics.

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Transfers Entering 2008

Fall 2008 Baseline of Transfers Entering Fall 2008.  This report presents findings from the fall, 2008, baseline survey of entering transfers, a total of 973 students. There were 483 online responses and 297 phone responses, for an 81% response rate. Survey topics included: previous education; attendance at Transitions; academic confidence; expectations as transfers enter Western; majors and minors; and personal backgrounds.

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Transfers Entering 2005

Spring 2007 Follow-up of Transfers Entering Fall 2005. This report presents findings from the spring, 2007, two-year follow-up survey of students who had entered as transfers in fall, 2005. Of particular interest at this point in this cohort’s academic career were issues concerning their major and minor, graduation, and their future plans. Other survey topics included respondents’ level of academic engagement; writing proficiency experiences; use of and satisfaction with student services academic advising; use of academic technologies; attitudes towards academic and social engagement; experiences with courses and resources; successes and challenges; and health and learning strategies issues.

Spring 2006 Follow-up of Transfers Entering Fall 2005. Similar to the three-year follow-up survey of students who had entered as freshmen in the fall, 2003-students who also mostly have junior status-this survey focused on issues facing third-year students, for instance: choosing a major, upper division course experiences, study abroad, and general studies advising. In addition, the survey included questions from other time points and cohorts such as questions on academic advising and tutorial services, general student services usage, academic skills and competencies, work and other non-academic activities, academic and personal difficulties, and perceptions of Western.

Fall 2005 Transitions Survey. This report presents findings from the end-of-fall-quarter, 2005, "transitions" survey for transfers. Questions were designed to help better understand the nature of their first quarter experience with respect to their personal, social and academic adjustment; the kinds of personal, financial, and academic pressures and difficulties they experienced; their use of student services (including advising) and newly implemented student services programs (e.g., an enhanced "Western Reads" program); and their overall satisfaction with Western after one quarter. Most of these same questions were asked of the fall, 2005, incoming freshmen, thus facilitating comparisons between these two groups, keeping in mind, of course, that the freshmen were just entering college while transfers had junior standing during this first quarter.

Fall 2005 Baseline of In-Coming Transfers is the first comprehensive survey of transfer students in Western's history. Transfers were asked questions on a variety of topics including previous educational experiences, transfer student orientation, expectations about their Western experience, their major and advising, personal background, and future plans.

New Transfer Focus Group Summary. OSR randomly selected transfers entering Western in fall of 2004 to participate in a focus group study about students' expectations and experiences, both academic and social. The research was designed to explore transfer students' experiences as they transition into Western, and focused particularly on the challenges they face. This information will inform OSR's plans for the WELS transfer survey, a large-scale study of transfer entering in fall of 2005.

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Page Updated 07.17.2014