CIRP report provides insight into student habits

Every year students of the incoming freshman class take the Cooperative Institute Research Program survey or CIRP for short. The survey is a part of a national effort with public schools like FSU, UGA, UCLA and private schools like UPenn, Boston College and Emory all taking part.

Most students attending Tech have probably taken it, but for those who didn’t or those who don’t remember, it asks dozens of questions on topics ranging from political persuasion of the student, to self-evaluations of academic prowess and the student’s experiences in the classrooms.

The survey starts by obtaining basic background information of each student such as: their high school GPA, their parents’ educational background, their citizenship status and how many colleges they applied to.

The survey then goes on to ask about future education and career plans, financial information and experiences they had in the classroom.

The survey is about 40 pages long, full of questions and goes into almost every aspect of a student’s educational history.

John Gordon, Director of the Office of Assessment runs the survey.

“We’ve been doing this survey for all over 40 years. I think what it does is it gives us a snapshot of what the incoming freshman class looks like so we can see what changes in terms of student expectations, what their goals are, and how prepared they are when they get to Georgia Tech,” Gordon said.

Multiple programs have benefited or have come about as a result of CIRP.

“I think GT1000 is something that came about in part because of some of the data we got from CIRP. Freshman Experience [was also a result]. We’ve made some tweaks to the International Plan and undergraduate research,” Gordon said.

In addition to CIRP, surveys are also handed out to students in later years to measure their progress.

“We also use this as part of a longitudinal study so we are able to see what students are like when they are freshman but we also do studies to see what students do when they are seniors so we can see what kind of relationship there are between the activities they did in high school and their success in Georgia Tech,” Gordon said.

Gordon and his peers are currently writing a paper on that relationship. He says it should be published in the upcoming months, probably in early June.

Gordon and his office recently released a report analyzing the data gathered and compared it to information from past surveys and data gathered at other schools.

The report and the actual results are available at

There does appear to be a clash between expectations and work ethic. In subjective areas, such as expectations and self-efficacy, Tech students are assured of themselves.

The survey concludes that Tech students “are confident “¦ [expecting] to have at least a “B” average in college” and “are less likely to report feeling overwhelmed” often “rating themselves significantly higher than do their public university counterparts on academic ability.”

However, they also admit spending “fewer hours a week studying than their peers” and they “are less likely than are their peers to report taking notes in class, revising papers and asking a teacher for advice after class.”

This in turn implies that in objective areas useful in predicting future academic success, incoming Tech students fall short compared to their peers.

85 percent of respondents reported that Tech was their first or second choice of college, and that its academic reputation was the most important factor when making their future college decision. CIRP also seems to validate some prominent social stereotypes of the Tech student.

According to the survey, students are “less likely than were their peers to socialize, party, or exercise, although [Tech] men were more likely than their male peers to play video or computer games at least six hours a week “¦ respondents in 2008 report spending less time in high school socializing with friends, working, and partying than did respondents in 1998 “¦ and the percentage of men who spent at least six hours a week playing video games more than doubled.” Alcoholism is on its way down. “Respondents in 2008 reported drinking less alcohol during their senior year than did respondents in 1998.”