Incoming freshmen have been observed to have an exaggerated perception of their academic preparation for college. Unfortunately, this perception does not appear to translate into high academic performance. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to survey attitudes, perceptions, and personal characteristics of freshman students and to use these responses to find the significant determinants of first semester grades to identify which students to target for additional attention in orientation. We developed and conducted a survey for students enrolled in all sections of AG1011 (Orientation to Agriculture) in the fall semester of 2004. Regression estimates of determinants of first semester success were run on 45% (n=170) of the total enrollment in the class (n = 381). Survey questions addressed students' perceptions of their college preparation (for example, studyand note-taking skills and time commitment to studying). Survey responses were merged with university enrollment data (such as first semester GPA, ACT scores, class rank, and race). Results from this study show that first semester GPA is significantly and positively related to higher ACT scores, relative high school class rankings, perceived notetaking skills, students reporting reading assigned textbooks in high school, and experience with lessanalytical high school exam questions. Results also show that students accurately report weaknesses such as note taking and failure to read the text that ultimately results in lower grades. In addition, for some ethnic groups, students may earn lower grades on average. This finding suggests that these factors can be easily targeted in orientation programs to improve expectations, study habits, and educational outcomes.
semester, agricultural college, student performance, preparation