Celebrating a historic half-century of research on college students, 2015 marked the 50th administration of the CIRP Freshman Survey (TFS). The survey was introduced in 1966 by Dr. Alexander “Sandy” Astin during his time at the American Council on Education. Sandy brought the project to UCLA in 1973 and since then it has been administered by the Higher Education Research Institute. The survey has been administered to more than 15 million students at over 1,900 institutions. Later this year, we will release a longitudinal review of the past fifty years of data in "The American Freshman: Fifty-Year Trends."

Our mission as a research institute remains to "inform educational policy and promote institutional improvement through an increased understanding of higher education and its impact on college students."

About the CIRP Freshman Survey

The CIRP Freshman Survey is designed for administration to incoming first-year students before they start classes at your institution. The instrument collects extensive information that allows for a snapshot of what your incoming students are like before they experience college. Key sections of the survey examine:

  • Established behaviors in high school
  • Academic preparedness
  • Admissions decisions
  • Expectations of college
  • Interactions with peers and faculty
  • Student values and goals
  • Student demographic characteristics
  • Concerns about financing college

Many of the items on the CIRP Freshman Survey are pre-test questions that are then post-tested on CIRP follow-up surveys - Your First College Year (YFCY), Diverse Learning Environments (DLE), College Senior Survey (CSS) - providing for longitudinal examination of cognitive and affective growth during college. All CIRP surveys allow you to add questions of your own on the instrument.

Schools participating in the CIRP Freshman Survey receive an institutional profile, which includes your institutional results broken out by sex, full and part-time status, comparisons with other similar institutions, significance testing, effect sizes, CIRP Constructs and Theme reports, a data file of your student responses, a PowerPoint presentation, a Graduation Rate Calculator; and a monograph summarizing the national results.

Administering the Survey

Administered anytime between March 14 through October 10, 2016

The CIRP Freshman Survey is conducted before students start their college careers, and is available as early as March and as late as October. Most campuses conduct the survey during orientation and allow about one hour for survey administration. The best results occur when the survey is administered in a proctored setting.

Traditionally a paper survey, the CIRP Freshman survey is also available as a web survey. The CIRP Web Portal at www.cirpsurveys.org provides greater flexibility and ease of use when managing your survey administration.

The Paper Survey
is best when administered in a large-group setting during orientation, but is also used in classrooms, residence halls, or small groups. It can also be administered through the mail. You set the delivery date and the number of questionnaires needed. Your paper survey data is available just 3 weeks after your paper questionnaires arrive for scanning.
The Web Survey
can be administered either with your campus managing the email notification process, or for ease of use, you can elect to have HERI manage the email notifications to students. A web survey can be more convenient for both you and your students. Our web portal allows you maximum flexibility in setting email notification and reminder dates, customized, "welcome" and "thank you" pages, customized email notifications, and input of additional questions. Throughout the administration, you can obtain updates on your response rate. Your survey data is available the day after a student completes the questionnaire.
The Paper & Web
Survey Combination
enables your institution to enhance its response rate by using both methodologies for maximum exposure. Students may complete either version.

Web Survey Features

  • HERI can send customizable email notifications (including reminders) to your students
  • Customizable "Welcome" and "Thank you" Screens
  • Upload your own additional questions

The Survey Instrument

Important Forms and Documentation

Fees / Withdrawal Policy

Participation Fee $825
Processing Fee $3.25 per survey processed
Customized Welcome and Thank You Pages FREE
Integrated additional questions $350
Email distribution to students $375
On-line Data Analysis $150

Billing Policy

Upon registration, institutions are sent one bill for the participation fee. After each institution completes their survey administration and returns the data for processing, the per-survey processing fees are calculated and a second bill is sent to each institution for their respective processing charges. Institutions are also billed separately for any Data Service Orders they may place, and these bills are sent out after the completion and fulfillment of each Data Service Order.

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"The survey is a widely cited source of data on college demographics and attitudinal trends"

The Chronicle of Higher Education
See the Survey in Action Demo