The College Student Expectations Questionnaire:
Assessing Student Expectations of their College Education
Robert M. Gonyea
May 22, 2001

On behalf of the Policy Center on the First Year of College, it is my distinct honor to introduce to you this week's invited presenter to the spring/summer series on assessment instruments, Robert M. Gonyea.  Bob's article will draw from his years of experience in assessment to examine the College Student Expectations Questionnaire, or CSXQ, a companion instrument to the College Student Experiences Questionnaire (CSEQ).  Bob is currently working towards his doctorate in Higher Education and Student Affairs at Indiana University, where he also serves as project manager of the CSEQ and project associate of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).  He hails from Michigan and bleeds Spartan green through and through, having developed a love for Michigan State University many years ago.  In fact, he earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees from Michigan State.  Prior to attending graduate school at Indiana in 1997, Bob's career involved extensive work in residence life, most notably at the University of San Francisco and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  In addition, he developed a comprehensive student leadership program at Northern Michigan University.  A fluent speaker of Spanish, he worked in Monterrey, Mexico as an international high school/middle school guidance counselor for two years.  Bob is a very "well-balanced" individual when it comes to research methodology -- he has demonstrated great capability in the statistics arena, and I know as a fellow graduate colleague of his at IU that he is adroit at conducting qualitative research as well.  Bob's research interests include the assessment of student affairs and the quality of undergraduate education, student environments and culture, and student expectations for college.  He enjoys living in Bloomington with his wonderful wife, Angela Lexmond, and their 1 1/2 year old son, Robinson.  While you might think you wake up to Bob's voice each morning on National Public Radio, don't be alarmed -- it is really his brother, White House correspondent Don Gonyea.

Watch your e-mail for Bob's article on the CSXQ.  As usual, the article will be sent to you in e-mail format and will include a link to a Web version should you wish to bookmark or print the article.

What do new students believe they will experience during their first year in college?  In what learning activities do they anticipate engaging?  What requirements do they place on the institution to help them meet first-year educational goals?

The College Student Expectations Questionnaire (CSXQ) (Kuh & Pace, 1998) is a shortened version of its parent instrument, the fourth edition of the College Student Experiences Questionnaire (CSEQ), also developed by Bob Pace and George Kuh.  In areas where the CSEQ accounts for student utilization of campus educational resources and opportunities, the CSXQ gauges student pre-dispositions toward resource utilization.  As a stand-alone instrument the CSXQ measures students' beliefs about how they will spend their time during the coming school year.  When paired with the CSEQ, which can be administered as a posttest measure toward the end of the school year, the institution can assess the degree to which those expectations were met.  (To view Acrobat Reader files of both instruments, visit

I attempt three objectives in this posting: (a) to provide basic information about administering the CSXQ, (b) to briefly discuss the value of measuring student expectations, and (c) to suggest ways to maximize use of student expectations data.


The CSXQ has been administered to over 50,000 students at more than 40 different colleges and universities since 1997.  It is four pages in length and takes 10-15 minutes to complete.  It is typically administered to new students before the start of classes at orientation or during welcome week.  A new online version will be available in summer of 2001.

Completed CSXQ surveys are processed and scored by the Center for Postsecondary Research and Planning at Indiana University.  Participating institutions receive a floppy disk containing their raw data and an electronic copy of the results tables in SPSS format.  Schools also receive a printed copy of the output along with the national norms.  For schools that administer the CSEQ as a follow-up at the end of the first year, a special report comparing CSXQ and CSEQ data is produced along with the basic CSEQ report.

The CSXQ shares 87 items in common with the CSEQ, not including background.

Library and Information Technology

Student Interactions with Faculty Members

Course Learning Activities

Writing Experiences

Campus Programs and Facilities

Clubs and Organizations

Student Acquaintances

Scientific and Quantitative Experiences

Topics of Conversation

Information in Conversations

Amount of Reading and Writing


More than a wish or a hope, an expectation is something the student believes will happen, anticipates doing or experiencing, or perhaps even requires from the institution.  Expectations are grounded in a student's self-understanding and in knowledge about the college or university at which he or she plans to spend the next four years or more.   When applied to self, an expectation is like a plan or a goal.  When directed at the institution, it is more of a requirement - a condition by which the student will measure his or her contentment with the institution.

Kuh (1999) has provided a rich intellectual foundation for the measurement of expectations.  Expectations are thought to affect college experiences in at least two ways.  The first is to act as an organizational system or filter to help the individual determine what is or is not worth attending to or putting effort toward.  That is, expectations influence experience so as to construct what becomes reality for the individual (Feldman, 1981).  The second is to act as a stimulus or deterrent to behavior, as represented by psychological theories such as expectancy theory, self-efficacy theory, and motivational theories (Kuh, 1999; Olson, Kuh, and others, 1998).

In a previous posting to this list, Kuh (2000) writes "to maximize learning and involvement during the first year of college, students need to set personal goals that are high enough so that they must try their best in classes and use campus resources to augment what they are learning in their classes."  In addition, when a student's expectations are met then he or she is more likely to remain in school and complete a degree.  When expectations are unmet, the student may consider dropping out or transferring to an institution with a better fit (Braxton, Hossler, & Vesper, 1995).


Discovering what students expect from their college experience is crucial if faculty are to adjust their instructional approaches accordingly and institutions are to modify policies and practices to respond in educationally effective ways.  Below are three examples of how CSXQ data can be put to work on your campus to improve the first year experience:

(1)  Focus efforts on student expectations while they are still forming.  CSXQ information can be used to tailor new student recruitment materials and orientation activities where it is discovered that student expectations need to be modified in order for students to succeed.

(2)  Information from the CSXQ can be beneficial to faculty members who have frequent contact with first-year students.  Faculty members who teach traditional first-year courses, especially those who teach first-year experience courses, can use CSXQ data to directly influence student expectations.  Academic advisors, residence hall staff, and campus activities staff can also implement programs to encourage students to expect more and set higher learning goals.

(3)  Use CSXQ results to stimulate dialogue on the scholarship of teaching and learning on your campus.  Typically, the data show that in most areas students have greater expectations for their first year than they subsequently realize.  This is commonly known as the 'freshman myth'.  For example, they study fewer hours, write less, and interact with faculty members less than they expect to.  This pattern of results prompts questions about whether the nature and amount of assigned academic work is appropriate to cultivate the range and depth of intellectual skills required to succeed in college and beyond.

One final note - the CSXQ may also function as an instructional device.  While filling out the questionnaire, new students are given pause to contemplate the learning opportunities that will be presented to them during the coming school year.  We believe this leads them to formulate or rethink expectations in areas where they have not given much thought.

To obtain more information about the CSXQ or CSEQ, including contact information and pricing, please visit:


Braxton, J., Hossler, D., & Vesper, N.  (1995).  Incorporating college choice constructs into Tinto's model of student departure: Fulfillment of expectations for institutional traits  and student withdrawal plans. Research in Higher Education, 36(5), 595-612.

Feldman, D.C.  (1981).  The multiple socialization of organization members.  Academy of Management Review, 6, 308-318.

Kuh, G.D., & Pace, C.R. (1998). College student expectations questionnaire (2nd ed.). Center for Postsecondary Research and Planning.  Bloomington: Indiana University.

Kuh, G.D.  (1999).  Setting the bar high to promote student learning.  In G.S. Blimling, E.J. Whitt and Associates, Good practice in student affairs: Principles to foster student learning.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kuh, G.D.  (2000).  Tools for assessing the first-year student experience.  First-Year Assessment Listserv (FYA-List). Brevard: The Policy Center on the First Year of College. 

Olsen, D., Kuh, G.D., & others.  (November, 1998).  Great expectations: What students expect from college and what they get.  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Miami.

Copyright 2001, Robert M. Gonyea.  This essay may be copied and used for non-commercial use without obtaining copyright permission but should include the source and author information.  Any commercial use must be approved by the author.