Editor’s note: This is the first year The Daily has run a senior survey. We collected 327 responses, representing slightly less than 20% of the around 1,800 graduating seniors, so survey results should be interpreted with caution. We welcome feedback on the questions asked for future versions of this survey.
The class of 2020 has dealt with one of the most unusual years in Stanford history. With COVID-19 forcing the mythical senior spring online, seniors have had their years and lives upended. A quarter of seniors surveyed said they were less likely to live in a city post-graduation as a result of the pandemic, and about two-thirds of respondents felt the pandemic had a negative or very negative impact on their academic progress. Furthermore, 1 in 4 of them lost an internship or job opportunity due to the pandemic.
Seniors view the administration’s response to COVID-19 with some skepticism as only 43% approve or strongly approve of the administration’s handling of the situation. Still, their view of President Donald Trump’s response is much more negative; 95% of respondents were unfavorable or very unfavorable. Despite the current situation, seniors are still generally positive on Stanford as a whole, with 80% of seniors either saying they agree or strongly agree that Stanford as an institution has a positive impact on society.
Navigate to each section of the survey data using the links below:
- Respondent characteristics
- Housing and lifestyle
- Career plans
- Experience with Stanford resources
- Approval of the administration
- Opinions on campus issues
Characteristics of survey respondents were not entirely representative of the senior class at large. While Stanford reports having classes with nearly equal numbers of male and female students, 61% of respondents to our survey were female, 36% were male, 3% were no-binary/third gender and 1% preferred to self-describe or did not respond. Of all students surveyed, 2% identified as transgender.
While gender identity data across respondents is skewed, the race/ethnicity data is approximately representative of the overall undergraduate population based on data from the University’s IDEAL dashboard.
Of seniors who responded, 73% were heterosexual or straight, 14% were bisexual, 9% were gay or lesbian and 2% were asexual. While 51% of respondents reported not receiving need-based financial aid, other respondents received aid to varying degrees, including 16% receiving full rides.
The average reported GPA for seniors was a 3.75, whereas the median GPA was a 3.8. There was only a slight difference in average GPA between STEM majors (3.73) and non-STEM majors (3.79).
The top 5 most popular majors were computer science, human biology, symbolic systems, biology and English. About a quarter of seniors surveyed are graduating with honors.
About 69% majored in a degree classified as STEM, while 28% majored in a degree classified as non-STEM (3% did not respond or were unable to be classified), which tracks with the growing number of B.S.’s versus B.A.’s being handed out by Stanford. Of the 36% of seniors who are graduating with a minor, the three most popular minors were Economics, computer science and creative writing.
Over the course of their Stanford undergraduate careers, 65% of students reported witnessing cheating by anyone, including themselves. Among STEM students, 67% have witnessed cheating. Among non-STEM students, only 58% have witnessed cheating.
Half of seniors reported studying abroad at least once during their undergraduate career. The five most popular programs were Oxford, Florence, Madrid, Santiago and Paris.
Lifestyle and party culture
On average, seniors went out to parties or large social gatherings about 5.1 weeks per 10-week quarter. Out of the 31% who said they were part of Greek life, 20% said they felt forced to consume a substance due to their participation.
Each senior has been a part of 3.8 clubs on average. Only 3.6% of those who had been a part of at least one club felt forced to consume a substance due to their participation. While at Stanford, seniors dated one person and had two sexual partners, on the median. Drug culture at Stanford mainly involves alcohol and marijuana; nearly 97% and 66% surveyed have used these substances, respectively. Only 9% reported using adderall or ritalin, commonly used “study drugs.” Only 2% of students reported using opiates.
Seniors tend to have plans for additional schooling. Of respondents, 57% indicated they plan to go to graduate school at some point. Of the 180 respondents who plan to work or intern post-graduation, the industries seniors will join are somewhat different than those students’ planned before entering Stanford. While 33% of students will enter technology, only 27% of those same students reported that they had intended to enter technology at the start of their Stanford careers. Furthermore, 14% will enter finance or consulting whereas only 6% had intended on those two industries at the start of Stanford. The sentiment of change is widely shared, as 67% of seniors say their post-graduation plans have changed while at Stanford.
Members of the senior class have high variance in expected earnings. Of those who plan to work or intern post-college, 30% say they will earn in the $70,000 to $110,000 salary range, 20% expect to earn $30,000 to $50,000 and $50,000 to $70,000 each, 11% of seniors will earn less than $30,000 and 18% will earn more than $110,000.
Experience with Stanford resources
Many seniors reported using one of the various University support offices. Among these are the Stanford Office of Sexual Assault & Relationship Abuse Education & Response (SARA) and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which is part of the Vaden Health Center.
A plurality of students (32.5%) reported that academics had a “somewhat negative” experience on mental health. Nearly half of respondents (43.3%) believe that Stanford “sometimes” covered their mental health needs. A majority of respondents have not used CAPS, but of those who reported that they have, 45.5% had a somewhat positive or very positive experience with the service. More than half (57.8%) of respondents who used CAPS reported that effects of academics on mental health were somewhat negative or very negative.
About a quarter of respondents have a neutral opinion of Vaden Health Center for a service outside of CAPS, and another quarter have a somewhat positive view. In total, about 90% of respondents used Vaden outside of CAPS.
Only about 13% of respondents used the SARA office, and 75.6% of those identified as female. About 8% of respondents reported a form of prohibited sexual conduct, with 19% of these individuals identifying as male and the remaining 81% identifying as female. Half of those who reported prohibited sexual conduct used the SARA office.
Approval of the administration
Seniors greatly disapprove of Stanford’s handling of paying workers and housing students during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 83% and 58% disapproving respectively. As in The Daily’s Stanford Community Survey, students prefer the student government’s COVID-19 response over Stanford’s, and seniors most approve of their academic department.
The pandemic gave the class of 2020 an end to its Stanford undergraduate career that no one saw coming. Due to the pandemic, about 8% of respondents took a leave of absence, and nearly half of respondents believe that the pandemic has had a negative effect on their academic progress. Of seniors taking a leave of absence, 76% believed that the pandemic had a negative or very negative impact on their academic progress. About 16% of seniors have had a parent lose a job due to the pandemic, and a tenth of respondents consider themselves to be part of the COVID-19 high-risk population.
The ongoing pandemic has affected the post-graduation living arrangements of about a quarter of respondents. Some want to live in a cheaper city due to a worse financial situation or the ability to work remotely. Other respondents want to live in a less dense location.
While the class of 2020 will not be returning in the fall as undergraduates, they offered their thoughts on how Stanford should reopen. The distribution is fairly even, with a plurality supporting the plan Stanford has announced, which would have the equivalent of two class years on campus for each of the four quarters in the 2020-21 year. Other well-supported options include bringing the freshmen back for the full year while rotating the other classes and bringing all classes back for a mix of online and in-person instruction.
Opinions on campus issues
Recent votes from the Faculty Senate and Board of Trustees struck down proposals for Stanford to divest from fossil fuels. Stanford seniors feel differently, as 82% agree or strongly agree that Stanford should divest from fossil fuels. Calls for divestment extend to other private prisons, as 83% of seniors agree or strongly agree with divestment. Interestingly, 52% of seniors agree or strongly agree that students should attend protests for racial justice despite the pandemic, whereas 40% of students are neutral.
Despite Stanford’s investment decisions standing in contrast to seniors’ ideals, 80% of seniors believe the University has a positive impact on society, and 53% would consider or would definitely donate when older.
Shortly after the class of 2020 arrived at Stanford, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. As the seniors get ready to start a new chapter, a presidential election is once again looming. Campus is strongly left-leaning, with 18.5% of respondents identifying as very liberal and 43.5% identifying as liberal. In contrast, only 3.7% of respondents identify as either conservative or very conservative.
The class of 2020 holds an extremely unfavorable view of the president, with 85.5% having a very unfavorable opinion and 8% having an unfavorable opinion. Every respondent who identified as socialist held a very unfavorable view of the president.
The distribution of opinions on Trump’s handling of the pandemic is essentially the same as the overall opinion of the president, as 87% hold a very unfavorable opinion. Seniors have an even more unfavorable opinion of Trump’s handling of recent protests sparked by George Floyd’s death, with nearly 90% of respondents having a very unfavorable view.
The vast majority of seniors plan to vote in the upcoming election. Of those who are not, the most common reason is being a non-U.S. citizen. Among respondents, Joe Biden is the most popular candidate with about 85% planning to vote for him. The next most popular opinion is a write-in candidate named Gloria La Riva, a socialist activist. Only about 3% of respondents said they will vote for Trump.
An earlier version of this article displayed data for the ‘Class of 2020 on the Pandemic and Living Arrangements Post Graduation‘ question as a pie chart. We have updated the chart to a bar chart to reflect the fact that respondents could select multiple options.
Please contact Dylan Grosz at dgrosz ‘at’ stanford.edu, Sophie Andrews at sophie1 ‘at’ stanford.edu, and Arjun Ramani at aramani3 ‘at’ stanford.edu.