Class of 2022: Senior Survey
The Dartmouth's seventh annual survey of the graduating class revealed improving but still overall negative views of the administration.
This article is featured in the 2022 Commencement & Reunions special issue.
For the seventh year in a row, The Dartmouth conducted a survey recording the opinions and experiences of Dartmouth’s graduating class. Since arriving at Dartmouth in 2018, the Class of 2022 has experienced four years that, while similar in some respects to those of the classes that have come before, have been characterized by significant disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The following four sections describe the Class of 2022’s views on campus issues, student life, national and local politics and their plans post-graduation.
The Class of 2022 holds overall negative views of the College’s administration — albeit slightly more positive than those of the Class of 2021. Seventy-five percent of the Class of 2022 has either an unfavorable or somewhat unfavorable view of the administration, compared to 83% from last year. Views of the Class of 2021 represented a sharp drop in approval ratings of campus administration from previous years.
Views of College President Phil Hanlon also improved. While 60% of the class still reported an unfavorable rating, Hanlon’s net favorability rating increased by 23 percentage points from last year. Other administrators, including Provost David Kotz and Dean of the College Scott Brown, are viewed more favorably by the Class of 2022. After former provost Joe Helble left the College in July 2021, Kotz served as interim provost before being appointed provost in January. Forty-six percent of the class registered favorable views of Kotz while 12% hold unfavorable views. Kotz’s net approval is similar to that of Helble’s last year, as 50% of the Class of 2021 approved of Helble while 18% disapproved. Brown, who was appointed dean in the summer of 2021, on the other hand, has significantly higher approval ratings compared to those of former Dean of the College Kathryn Lively. While 81% of the Class of 2021 reported unfavorable views of Lively and only 9% approved, numbers this year have essentially flipped for Brown — 9% reported disapproving views and 50% hold favorable views.
Faculty members continue to hold overwhelmingly positive views in the eyes of the graduating class — 95% of seniors reported favorable ratings of Dartmouth faculty, up from last year’s 88% approval rating. The Department of Safety and Security also saw an increase in net favorability rating, jumping 19 percentage points from last year to an overall positive rating with 43% reporting favorable views and 36% holding unfavorable views. Views of Dartmouth Dining however, dropped significantly among the Class of 2022. This change comes after several new Dartmouth Dining locations opened up on campus in the past year, including Irving Cafe and Cafe@Baker, but also amid staffing shortages and unpredictable hours at various dining locations. Seventy-two percent of the Class of 2022 holds negative views of Dartmouth Dining while 21% reported positive views, compared to the 53% approval, 40% disapproval ratings among the Class of 2021.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Class of 2022 has been impacted by COVID-19 policies for a larger portion of their Dartmouth experience than their predecessors. This year’s ratings of the COVID-19 Task Force fell slightly, as 52% registered unfavorable views and 29% reporting favorable views — 47% of last year’s seniors viewed the task force unfavorably while 35% saw them favorably. Still, a majority of seniors — 54% — reported being either somewhat or extremely satisfied with the College’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an improvement from views held by the Class of 2021, in which only 41% registered somewhat or extreme satisfaction.
The senior class also holds strongly negative views of the College’s allocation of resources for mental health. A whopping 91% of seniors reported being either somewhat or extremely dissatisfied with the College’s resources and policies. Only 9% identified as somewhat satisfied, and no respondent felt extremely satisfied with the allocation of resources for mental health on campus. Views of the College’s mental health policies have notably declined for the past two years — 44% of the Class of 2020 were satisfied, and 30% of last year’s seniors reported satisfaction.
Satisfaction with the College’s sexual violence prevention resources is on a similar downward trajectory, as 65% of seniors now reporting dissatisfaction with these policies. While the majority of the Class of 2022 holds unfavorable views, this was not true of previous graduating classes — the Class of 2021 reported a nearly even split on satisfaction, and 58% of the Class of 2020 were satisfied with the College’s resource allocation on sexual violence prevention. Views of the College’s resource allocation saw similar declines among both male and female students. Among female students of the Class of 2022, 26% identified as satisfied and 67% dissatisfied, while 43% of last year’s female students reported satisfaction and 57% were dissatisfied. For male students, 39% registered satisfaction and 53% reported dissatisfaction, a decline from last year’s 58-42 split in which the majority of male students were satisfied with the College’s policies.
Views on the overall Dartmouth educational experience, however, have improved. A notable 94% of seniors identify as being extremely or somewhat satisfied with their Dartmouth education — a jump from the 81% of the Class of 2021 who reported satisfaction, which was the lowest satisfaction rate since The Dartmouth began sending out the senior survey in 2015. Despite this growth, the 56% of the Class of 2022 who considered themselves likely to donate to the College in the future is only a slight increase from the Class of 2021’s 52%.
Members of the Class of 2022 continue to value academics as the most important element of their Dartmouth experience. Seventy-eight percent of respondents characterized academics as very important, and an additional 20% rated it as important. Social life was a close second, with 92% answering that it was important or very important, followed by extracurricular activities at 78%, Dartmouth traditions at 57%, Greek life at 54%, outdoor activities at 50% and paid employment at 50%. Somewhat less important for members of the Class of 2022 were remote learning at 45%, academic research at 42%, study abroad programs at 36% and politics at 22%. Least important were varsity sports at 15%, affinity/religious groups at 14% and house communities at 10%.
Seniors overwhelmingly indicated that academic interest and post-graduation career were important factors in their academic careers, with 97% and 94%, respectively, indicating that these were somewhat or very important in their major selection process. Members of the Class of 2022 also reported considering perceived easiness and parental/familial influence in choosing their majors. Forty-three percent and 42% of seniors, respectively, indicated that these factors had some amount of influence over their major choice, though very few — 3% and 12%, respectively — ranked them as very important.
The Class of 2022 resembles previous classes in terms of romantic relationships. Thirty-one percent of respondents reported that they did not date anyone at Dartmouth. The plurality, 42% reported dating one person; 19% reported dating two people; and 8% reported dating three or more people. Unlike the previous class, 36% of this year’s seniors report having engaged in sexual activity for the first time at Dartmouth — up from 30% last year but down from 43% among members of the Class of 2020. Fifty percent report having engaged in sexual activity before Dartmouth, down from 59%; the remaining 13% report never having engaged in sexual activity at all.
One Dartmouth tradition that routinely receives attention is the Dartmouth Seven, a set of seven locations where students are challenged to engage in sexual activity. Forty-two percent of students reported completing at least one of the Dartmouth Seven, up from previous years — 35% and 27% for the Classes of 2021 and 2020, respectively. Among those who reported completing any of the Seven, the most popular sites were BEMA at 71% and the Baker-Berry Stacks at 65%. Hanlon’s lawn followed at 40%, significantly up from 20% for members of the Class of 2021. Thirty-one percent reported completing Dartmouth Hall or the center of Green. Only 25% and 19% claimed that they completed at least one of the seven at the Top of the Hop and the 50-yard line of Memorial Field, respectively.
Greek-affiliated students tended to report completing any of the Seven at a higher rate than unaffiliated students, at 43% for the affiliated and only 18% for the unaffiliated. Between fraternities and sororities, 51% of those in sororities reported completing at least one of the seven, in contrast to only 36% of those in fraternities. One percent of the Class of 2022 claim to have completed the entire Seven; all three such respondents to our survey were affiliated with sororities.
The Class of 2022 also resembles previous classes in terms of alcohol and drug usage. 26% of seniors reported drinking for the first time at Dartmouth, 67% reported drinking before Dartmouth and the remaining 7% reported having never drank alcohol at all. With regards to drug use, 37% of seniors reported using some drug or substance for the first time at Dartmouth, while 30% reported never having used any other drugs or substances. Among those who did drugs while at Dartmouth, marijuana was the drug of choice, with 94% having used it at some point during their time in college. Other drugs had much lower usage rates among those who reported using drugs: 52% reported having used tobacco, 28% reported having used cocaine, 25% reported having used non-prescription medication and 14% reported having used LSD.
When asked to rate the importance to their Dartmouth experience of five traditional Dartmouth events — First-Year Trips, Homecoming, Winter Carnival, Green Key and sophomore summer — a strong majority of seniors ranked First-Year Trips as important or very important: 69%, somewhat higher than the 66% for the Class of 2021. Green Key and Homecoming followed at 64 and 63%, respectively. The importance of the sophomore summer experience decreased dramatically for members of the Class of 2022, with only 31% ranking it as very important or important. This may have been due to the decision to move all classes online over the summer of 2020 during the pandemic. Winter Carnival placed last, with just 27% of seniors finding it to be important or very important.
Members of the Class of 2022 remained busy during their off-terms. Many held a paid or unpaid internship — 74% and 42%, respectively — while 41% engaged in paid or unpaid research and 38% said they traveled. More than a third took advantage of paid employment or Dartmouth-sponsored internships, research, fellowships, employment or other opportunities. Only 30% engaged in volunteer/non-profit work.
In terms of culinary preferences, members of the Class of 2022 preferred Collis Cafe, with 35% ranking it as their favorite Dartmouth Dining Service location. The Class of 1953 Commons and Courtyard Cafe were also popular, with 30% and 29% of seniors ranking these as their first choice. Less popular were The Fern and Ramekin Cafe, with 4% and 2% ranking them first. Least popular were Cafe@Baker and Novack Cafe, with less than 1% of seniors ranking either location as their favorite choice.
This survey also inquired about whether or not members of the Class of 2022 contracted COVID-19 while residing on campus or locally in the Upper Valley. A majority — 61% — reported that they contracted COVID-19 at least once, and this figure jumps to 73% among students who are affiliated with a fraternity, sorority or gender-inclusive Greek house.
During their time at the College, the Class of 2022 experienced a highly charged political environment. Their first two years coincided with the tail end of the Trump administration, including an effort by former President Donald Trump to overturn the results of the 2020 election leading to his supporters storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Other major political movements included demonstrations on gun violence and reproductive rights, along with widespread Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer. The Class of 2022’s sophomore year saw the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which policies such as mask mandates and vaccination requirements were particularly polarized. In addition, this class also recently witnessed the leaking of a Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
Nearly two years into a new Democratic administration, this year’s seniors are not optimistic about the future: almost 80% reported that things in the country were “off on the wrong track,” while only 6% indicated that things were “headed in the right direction.” This is a notable decline from last year’s graduating class — in which 30% indicated optimism — and more on par with the Class of 2020, who responded to their senior survey just months into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similar to previous classes, the majority of seniors identify as liberal: 39% describe themselves as very liberal and 36% describe themselves as somewhat liberal. About 17% of the Class of 2022 holds moderative views, whereas 7% identify as somewhat conservative and 1% identify as very conservative — a sharp drop from the 8% of last year’s seniors who described themselves as such. Percentages of liberal and moderate students otherwise remains fairly consistent compared to years prior.
The Class of 2022’s political views did not appear to change much over their time at Dartmouth. When asked about their political views pre-Dartmouth, most of the class similarly identified as having liberal views, with 73% reporting either somewhat or very liberal views, 19% holding moderate views and 6% holding conservative views. 67% of the senior class reported that all or most of their closest friends share their political beliefs, while 27% said some and 6% said that few or none share similar political beliefs.
Considering the majority liberal views of the class, it is not surprising that seniors generally viewed liberal-leaning institutions more positively than conservative ones. Still, President Joe Biden was the only figure or group who received a net positive favorability rating, with 52% of seniors reporting favorable views and 35% registering negative views. Biden’s net favorability of 17% is a notable drop from ratings of last year’s seniors, in which Biden had a net positive rating of 32%. Seniors seem split on the Democratic Party, as 42% reported positive views while 44% reported unfavorable views. In contrast, favorability of the Republican Party is significantly lower: only 9% viewed it favorably while 82% registered negative views. Former President Donald Trump received the lowest net favorability by this year’s seniors, with 3% reporting favorable views and an overwhelming 91% reporting negative views.
Dartmouth students continue to view the other two branches of the federal government unfavorably, though these views have become even more negative over time. For Congress, 9% view it favorably and 65% view it unfavorably, a decline from last year’s seniors who reported 13% favorability and 57% unfavorability. The sharpest year-on-year decline in favorability, however, was among views on the Supreme Court. A year of extended controversy over the nation’s highest court, including revelations of the participation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife Gini Thomas in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and the leaked draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade after decades of precedent, may be responsible for the 54-point drop in net favorability — from a 35-37 split among the Class of 2021 to just 11% approval from the Class of 2022, while 67% disapprove. This is the second year of decline in favorability for the Supreme Court, which had already become more polarized among the Class of 2021 than the previous year due to contentious approval processes of Trump-era Supreme Court appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
On a more local scale, the New Hampshire state government is generally unpopular among seniors, as 10% of the Class of 2022 reported favorable views while 36% hold unfavorable views. Similarly, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, polled at 11% favorable and 50% unfavorable. The Town of Hanover received 15% positive views and 63% negative views from this class.
Wall Street also remains disliked by seniors, with 20% reporting favorable views and 63% reporting unfavorable views. Among the 17% of seniors working in banking or finance, 56% hold positive views of Wall Street — though still lower than the 77% of last year’s seniors working in the same field who reported positive views.
The majority of the Class of 2022 will join the workforce following graduation, with 77% reporting that they plan to work immediately after Dartmouth. The second largest group will seek higher education: Those planning to attend graduate, medical, law and business school comprise 12%, 5%, 2% and 1% of the class, respectively. Four percent of seniors remain undecided as to their post-graduate plans at the time of the survey. Compared to the Class of 2021, there was a 14% increase in those looking to enter the workforce immediately after graduation. COVID-19 has had less of an impact on this year’s seniors compared to last year’s; only 31% of students indicate that COVID-19 had an impact on their plans, a 24% decrease from last year’s seniors.
Technology/engineering, banking/finance and consulting remain the most popular industries for seniors headed directly to the workforce. The most common field this year is technology/engineering with 25%, followed by consulting at 23% and banking/finance at 17%. Technology/engineering jobs decreased by 3% from the Class of 2021, while consulting and banking/finance increased by 7% and 1%, respectively. Other popular fields among this year’s seniors include government/politics at 9% and academia/research at 8%.
In terms of long-term career goals, the distribution across various fields becomes more even. Public service/non-profit work and government/politics are the most popular, with 28% of seniors wanting to work in either field 10 years from now. Other popular fields for seniors in the long term are technology/engineering at 13%, academia/research at 10%, health at 8% and education at 7%.
Geographically, most of this year’s seniors will remain in the U.S., while about 10% will move abroad — a figure similar to last year’s numbers. Among those moving abroad, the majority will head to Europe (9%), with less than 1% of students moving to Asia or elsewhere in North America. Within the U.S., New York and Massachusetts remain the top two states in which seniors will land at 31% and 15%, respectively. Other popular jurisdictions include Washington, D.C. at 13%, California at 7% and Illinois at 4%. While only 6% plan to remain in either New Hampshire or Vermont, a higher 14% plan to remain in the Upper Valley in the short-term. Seven percent of students reported remaining to finish courses required for their degree, 3% reported beginning employment and 2% reported wanting to spend more time with classmates.
Seventy-eight percent of the Class of 2022 anticipates graduating with no debt. Among those graduating with debt, 25% anticipate graduating with less than $10,000 and 24% with between $10,000 and $19,999. Seventeen percent anticipate graduating with more than $40,000 in debt. Thirty-seven percent expect to receive some financial assistance from their parents after they graduate — a 6% decrease from the Class of 2021.
In terms of anticipated annual starting salaries, 30% of this year’s seniors entering the workforce expect to make more than $100,000 annually and another 26% anticipate making between $75,000-$100,000. Twenty-three percent expect to make between $50,000 and $75,000 and 20% anticipate making below $50,000. This distribution appears significantly higher than the average salary for college graduates, which is about $50,000, according to a recent National Association of Colleges and Employers salary survey.
The Class of 2022’s high starting salaries may be in part driven by the industries that they choose to work in. Forty-three percent of those going into technology/engineering reported having annual starting salaries of greater than $100,000. Similarly, 42% of those going into banking/finance or consulting reported annual starting salaries of over $100,000. No seniors in either field reported starting salaries below $50,000.
In other fields, the starting salary appears to be much lower. No seniors going into government/politics, education, public service/non-profit work or publishing/media reported starting salaries above $75,000.
From Wednesday, May 25 to Sunday, May 29, The Dartmouth fielded an online survey of Dartmouth senior students on their opinions and experiences at the school. The survey was sent out to 1,143 seniors through their school email addresses. 139 responses were recorded, resulting in a 12.1% response rate. Using administrative data from the College’s Office of Institutional Research, responses were weighted by gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, Greek affiliation and international student status. Weighting was done through iterative post-stratification (raking). Survey results have a margin of error +/- 7.7 percentage points.