Intellectual activities, such as study abroad and internships, and involvement with one’s parents or academic adviser are key to having a meaningful college experience for students, according to a report released Monday.
The National Survey of Student Engagement, an annual report from the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, found that students who take part in “enriching high-impact experiences” gain more from their time in college than their peers, who do not have such experiences.
The survey lists learning communities, research with faculty, study abroad and culminating senior experiences as activities that provide enrichment.
The NSSE reported that students who take part in learning community opportunities gain various educational and personal development benefits.
Wendy Woods, associate director of the Michigan Community Scholars Program – a learning community based in Couzens Hall – pointed to strong grades, a high rate of retention and interest in community service as signs of the success of learning communities at the University of Michigan.
Woods said that students benefit from learning communities because the communities offer a smooth transition for first-year students and better contact with faculty members.
The survey also found that students who take part in faculty research come to understand the research process. The survey also found that these students spend a lot of time with faculty members and gain insight into how they think and deal with setbacks in the research process.
Carol Dickerman, director of the Office of International Programs, agreed with the survey’s finding that study abroad is “an educationally enriching and potentially life-changing experience.”
“Study abroad offers a whole range of benefits,” Dickerman said. “It is an opportunity for personal growth and to gain knowledge of the world.”
The survey found that the amount of time spent abroad is not as significant as the experience itself of studying abroad, but Dickerman said this is untrue.
She said longer programs have a greater intellectual impact on the participating students.
Culminating senior experiences, including a thesis, capstone course or field placement give students opportunities to “integrate, synthesize, and apply knowledge” in order to create more meaningful educational experiences, according to the survey.
In addition to an examination of these four experiences, the survey investigated the roles that academic advisors and parents play in a student’s college life.
According to the report, a student who meets with an academic adviser experiences greater gains in personal and social development.
The survey found that 13 percent of first-year students and 8 percent of senior students have “helicopter” parents – parents who “hover over and insinuate themselves into many aspects of their students’ college lives.”
Additionally, 25 percent of first-year students and 21 percent of senior students reported that their parents sometimes intervene on their parts.
CAPS Associate Director Victoria Hays said parenting roles differ for every family, but that a parent’s level of involvement should be mutually agreed upon between student and parent.
“The parent’s role should be negotiated by both sides and should be determined by what will make the student a fully functioning member of society,” Hays said.
The survey also indicates that although students with involved parents reported greater engagement, deeper learning and educational benefits, “they had significantly lower grades.”
But Hays was quick to point out that these lower grades may not be a result of the parent’s involvement.
“This may be a case of correlation but not necessarily causation,” Hays said. “We do not know if the student would have had lower grades without the parental involvement.”