John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Your First College Year Survey

During Fall 1999 and Winter 2000 the Policy Center on the First Year of College* and the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA adapted “The Freshman Survey,” the most prestigious assessment instrument in the history of higher education, to measure growth, learning, and change in the first year of college. Your First College Year (YFCY) survey provides at least three major advances in collegiate assessment practices. First, YFCY links end-of-first-year student responses to start-of-first-year student responses from the annual Freshman Survey to become the only assessment instrument specifically designed to measure change during the first year of college. Second, the collection process allows institutional researchers to link change scores to specific experiences in the first college year such as extra-curricular participation, curricular choices, special programs, etc. Finally, the aggregated results form the only nationally representative data set of change over the first year – both providing institutions with national comparisons and establishing a baseline of student characteristics as they enter the sophomore year. Results from these surveys will provide critical feedback to decision makers and program staff responsible for first-year programs.

During the first pilot year (1999-2000), approximately 5,000 students at 18 institutions were surveyed. Results led to revisions of YFCY and formed the foundation for the second pilot administration (2000-2001) to over 50 institutions and 15,000 students. Extensive psychometric study of the instrument led to additional changes in the survey design and administration methodology. In the third pilot year (2001-2002) over 126 institutions used YFCY.

In a nutshell, YFCY is a soundly designed survey instrument – built on psychometric research and informed by an array of external authorities – providing an unmatched opportunity for institutions to explore how policies and practices affect student learning and growth across the first college year.

The Higher Education Research Institute hosts the home website for YFCY. Information about current and future administrations is available here.

*The development of YFCY was made possible by grants from The Atlantic Philanthropies and The Pew Charitable Trusts.