College Experience

“The arts provided a space for sanity and creative problem solving. A nice escape from academic and business related works, while still building professional, positive, and useful life skills.”

“The arts have helped me maintain my values, and realize my passions and goals.”

“Without my arts experience, my resume would be empty and I would probably be medicated. Though it is sometimes frustrating to work with others under the pressure and demanding schedules of college, my arts experiences keep my life together.”

“It forced me to interact with people outside of my major. These were very positive interactions that I would not have otherwise had.”

“Gave me a place to go when I didn’t have anything to do, I really don’t participate in drinking so the events are perfect for hanging out with friends and getting to know what is going on and meeting new people.”

—UM students

Overview

Survey Question

What role did the arts play in your college experience, both positive and negative?

Students largely reported the positive role the arts played in their college experiences. Some students engaged in the arts primarily through their classroom experience (Educational), while some indicated that the arts played, at best, only a Small Role in their college experience. Even in these categories, the role of the arts in college was acknowledged as generally a positive one.

It is also important to note that there were some negative comments expressed by students about engaging in the arts in college — though these comments were often part of a more overall positive response, or were used as a point-counterpoint in a response. This ambivalence is present in the response to a few different questions, suggesting that there is a diversity of experience. When students did indicate a negative role for the arts, it typically stemmed from either their frustration at not achieving as good grades or outcomes from their arts endeavors, the time the arts required adversely affecting their other coursework grades or focus, or that arts participation steered them to consider or choose what they perceived to be a potentially less secure or lower paying jobs in an arts field.

Summary of Topic Analysis Results

We estimated a topic model with 13 topics, 840 open-ended responses, and a 300 word dictionary. (after removing stop words). The resulting topics are interpreted and described in the accompanying sections, and the responses reflect four main topic branches: Expanded Possibilities and Relaxation, More and Better Social Connections, Educational, and Small Role. The detailed methods for estimating the model can be found in the section on Topic Modeling and Interpretation.

College Experience Topic Tree

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Fig. 48 Tree visualization of the College Experience topic model representing 840 students responses. the responses reflect four main topic branches: Expanded Possibilities and Relaxation, More and Better Social Connections, Educational, and Small Role. Go here for the interactive College Experience Topic Tree.