Undergraduate Enrolled Student Survey results released

Most students are satisfied with their MIT education, many also feel overwhelmed

The results of the Undergraduate Enrolled Student Survey (ESS), a survey MIT administers every four years in the spring, were emailed to students last Thursday. The survey, with a 38% response rate, indicated that the student body generally feels positively about the campus community and their learning, but a significant proportion of students also frequently feel overwhelmed or stressed. Other factors surveyed include extracurricular participation, majors, and eating habits.

This year’s 38% response rate is a notable decrease from 63% in 2015 and 65% in 2011. This could be due to a variety of reasons, from the large number of surveys administered this year to the timing of the survey, explained Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz in an interview with The Tech. Waitz acknowledged that while the surveys point to issues, they do not provide a full understanding of them. The administration hopes to combine the survey results with other information such as formal interviews in order to more comprehensively understand problems.

88% of students feel satisfied with their undergraduate education so far, with 93% satisfied with overall quality of instruction and 97% agreeing that faculty members treat them fairly. The most popular field that students expect to graduate in is 6-3, declared by 21% of survey respondents, followed by Course 6-2 at 10% and Course 2 at 7%.

The survey also revealed areas for improvement. While overall satisfaction is high, 37% of students are very stressed about managing workload, 71% have often felt overwhelmed, and 18% have felt so depressed it was difficult to function. Also, while overall assessment of faculty is very positive, 53% of students feel less than two faculty members know them well enough to provide a letter of recommendation.

“It’s the fraction that [answer negatively to a question] that I really pay attention to,” said Waitz. “How can we make the environment better given [that information]?”

On the other hand, 84% of students felt that they were very or quite well described by the statement “when I am facing a challenge, I don’t give up easily,” aimed at measuring academic resilience.

In response, Waitz said, “it struck me that despite how rigorous MIT is and how some of the students feel overwhelmed and stressed by the workload, there was a strong supportive community among the students.”

The Office of the Vice Chancellor (OVC) hopes to tackle some of these issues through improved advising, including its advising pilot program for next year’s first-year students. The OVC also hopes its programs aimed to increase experiential learning and introduce more flexible options for first-years will help future students who may be uncertain of their major, projected from the current 35% of students who changed their major and 18% who were undecided.