Freshmen at Northern Kentucky University keep busy. The average NKU freshman works more hours and spends less time doing extracurricular activities and reading for pleasure than students from other colleges, according to results from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program(CIRP) freshmen survey conducted two years ago.
The information from this survey and two others were presented to teachers on Monday. The surveys provided the university with an image of the typical student at NKU in comparison with 700 colleges around the nation. The study found 38 percent of the incoming freshmen worked 20-plus hours a week in high school, 14 percent higher than the average.
“Our students are real workers,”said Stephanie Baker, research analyst in student affairs.
Because students here at NKU have a rigorous work ethic, NKU’s freshman felt overwhelmed 11 percent more frequently than at other schools.
“I would be overwhelmed too, if I worked 20 hours a week while in school,” she said.
So many students working longer hours dramatically affects the social atmosphere on campus, the study showed. Only 16 percent of the freshman coming into NKU plan on getting involved in extracurricular activities.
Radio/television major Jeff Snyder is one of these hard-working freshmen who said he can’t fit extracurricular activities at NKU into his schedule.
“It is important to get into the college life, but I have so much other stuff to do,” Snyder said.
“I would like to,” he added.
In addition to being overwhelmed, the survey found freshman here drink and smoke more heavily than the other campuses. Of NKU’s freshmen, 63 percent said they engaged in drinking over the past year, compared to 48 percent from other colleges, and 25 percent said they smoked, compared to 12 percent from other colleges.
The Office of Student Life realizes less students are likely to get involved on a primarily commuter campus like NKU, said director Betty Mulkey. She said Student Life attempts to target freshmen in their first semester of college to get involved. Mulkey said events like Freshfusion and Move-in Day in Residential Village are two early events designed to rope in the students whose only contact with the campus is between the parking lot and class.
“We know many students perceive the culture here as one of non-involvement,” she said. “We have to be intentionally intrusive. We try to be with them in the first few weeks to get them involved.”
Sophomore Jennifer Causey said the early efforts of Student Life got her interested in the different student organizations on campus. After graduating high school two years ago in Louisville, Causey said she didn’t plan on joining any organizations here at NKU because she was burnt out. She said she had been active in many organizations at her high school and said she wanted to have more free time in college. On move-in day during her first semester, however, she said she saw sororities recruiting for members. She said she realized this would be a great way to meet people and joined Delta Gamma. Now she is also a member of the Speech Club, Team NKU, Student Government Association and Norse Force.
“Being involved in a sorority opened up other doors for me,” Causey said.
While only 16 percent of freshmen say they will get involved, surveys given to every graduating senior show 55 percent joined at least one student organization. The discrepancy between anticipated involvement of new students and the actual involvement by the end of one’s education is the result of a conscious effort by the University to promote involvement, said Fran Zaniello, director of first-year programs.
Courses like University 101 force students to see the variety of activities on campus, she said. University 101 classes introduce freshmen to college life by showing them the different areas of campus and of college life in general.
Over the last several years, the University 101 class has expanded to require students to attend more events. Knowing 55 percent of the students will have joined an organization by the time they reach their senior year she said reaffirms the importance of getting freshmen to many events.
“It has given us more courage to say to students, ‘If you attend these things, you will be glad you did, you will be more satisfied’,” Zaniello said.
The survey also revealed that students were more conservative at NKU than at most other colleges.
Higher percentages of freshmen felt abortions and marijuana should be illegal and affirmative action abolished.
Students were also 18 percent less likely to socialize with someone of another race. Baker said these findings are a result of NKU’s surroundings.
“It has much more to do with our region,” she said. “Our students look like where they come from.”