This Year’s Freshmen Show Affinity for Civic Engagement and Responsibility
New survey shows volunteer work and intentions at all-time high
There’s good reason to be proud of today’s students! When it comes to civic engagement and responsibility, this year’s entering college freshmen show some of the highest commitments in years. That’s according to UCLA’s annual “The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 2005” survey of entering U.S. undergraduates.
When asked if they believe it is essential or very important to help others who are in difficulty, 66.3 percent of respondents answered yes, the highest this percentage has been in the past 25 years. In addition:
- 83.2 percent volunteered at least occasionally during their senior year of high school (an all-time high)
- 70.6 percent typically volunteered on a weekly basis
- 67.3 percent said there is a good or some chance that they’ll continue volunteering in college (an all-time high)
Something known as the period effect—when significant social or world events impact students at an impressionable time of life—may have to do with this increased sense of civic responsibility, says John Pryor, director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Project Freshman Survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. “The Indian Ocean tsunami occurred during their high school senior year, and Hurricane Katrina hit the southern Gulf Region in August, as many students began college,” he said. “This widespread rise in student attitudes reflecting social concerns and civic responsibility could be a reaction to the worst global and national disasters witnessed in their lifetime.”
“This cohort will likely have a special affinity for social responsibility as a result,” added Sylvia Hurtado, director of the Higher Education Research Institute and a UCLA education professor.
You can encourage this continued sense of civic responsibility by helping your student find places to volunteer when he is home. Maybe joining the volunteer firefighters sounds appealing. Or maybe she is interested in some one-shot volunteer efforts during school breaks, from gift wrapping for the March of Dimes at holiday time to offering classroom assistance during Spring Break. Many of today’s students want to give their time and talents, and your encouragement makes a difference.
Other Results from the Survey
For more on “The American Freshman – National Norms for Fall 2005,” go to http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/heri/norms05.html.