Level of Academic Challenge

Challenging intellectual and creative work is central to student learning and collegiate quality. Colleges and universities promote high levels of student achievement by emphasizing the importance of academic effort and setting high expectations for student performance.

Activities and conditions:

  • Time spent preparing for class (studying, reading, writing, rehearsing, and other activities related to your academic program)
  • Worked harder than you thought you could to meet an instructor’s standards or expectations
  • Number of assigned textbooks, books, or booklength packs of course readings
  • Number of written papers or reports of 20 pages or more
  • Number of written papers or reports between 5 and 19 pages
  • Number of written papers or reports fewer than 5 pages
  • Coursework emphasizes: Analyzing the basic elements of an idea, experience, or theory
  • Coursework emphasizes: Synthesizing and organizing ideas, information, or experiences
  • Coursework emphasizes: Making judgments about the value of information, arguments, or methods
  • Coursework emphasizes: Applying theories or concepts to practical problems or in new situations
  • Campus environment emphasizes spending significant amounts of time studying and on academic work

NIU 2009 Results:

Level of Academic Challenge

To what degree is studying and spending time on academic work emphasized?
81% of FY students feel that this institution places substantial emphasis on academics.1

Do faculty hold students to high standards?
62% of FY students frequently work harder than they thought they could to meet faculty expectations.2

How much time do students spend on homework each week?
41% of FY students spend more than 15 hours per week preparing for class. 13% spend 5 hours or less.

What types of thinking do assignments require?
First-year students report substantial emphasis on the following activities:

  • Memorizing facts, ideas, or methods: 76%
  • Analyzing basic elements of an idea or theory: 80%
  • Synthesizing and organizing ideas: 72%
  • Making judgments about value of information: 75%
  • Applying theories or concepts: 79%

How much writing is expected?
7% of FY students write more than 10 papers between 5 and 19 pages and 18% have written a paper more than 20 pages in length.

How much reading is expected during the school year?
40% of FY students read more than 10 assigned books and packs of course readings. 21% read fewer than 5.

Do exams require students to do their best work?
50% of FY students report that their exams strongly challenge them to do their best work.3


1 "Substantial" emphasis is defined by combining response values of "Very much" and "Quite a bit."
2 "Frequently" is defined by combining response values of "Very often" and "Often."
3 "Strongly challenge" is defined by combining response values of "6" and "7" on a one-to-seven point scale where 1 is “Very little” and 7 is “Very much.”