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Extracurriculars, study abroad and student participation: Three takeaways from Brown’s latest student survey

Survey reveals decline in student responses, with only quarter of enrolled students responding in 2023

This summer, the University’s Office of Institutional Research released findings from its 2023 Enrolled Student Survey, which catalogs student experiences on campus.

This year’s survey found differences in extracurricular engagement and community engagement by student demographics, along with long-term changes in student opinions about campus. 

Here are four major takeaways from this year’s survey.


Out of 10 types of extracurricular activities at Brown, students without financial aid are more likely to participate in seven types of activities  — including academic clubs, political groups and student publications — than students who receive financial aid.

Students with financial aid are more likely to participate in three types of activities: cultural/ethnic groups, religious/spiritual groups and student government.

Club sports have one of the largest differences in participation between students who do and do not receive financial assistance. Around 14% of students on financial aid participate in club sports, compared to 23% of students not on financial aid.

Cottrell van Wingerden ’24, president of Brown’s club field hockey team, said that the statistic “doesn’t entirely surprise” him.

Though he doesn’t have data on the number of students on his team on financial aid, he explained that “from a participant standpoint, there’s the issue of time commitment.”

For example, club field hockey participants spend around four hours per week at practice, in addition to time dedicated to games. Juggling those commitments with a job or work-study program can be challenging, he said. 

In 2017, 29% of seniors had already studied abroad. But in 2023, that number dropped to 17%. The drop coincides with cancellations of study abroad programs that were announced in May 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and international travel restrictions, The Herald previously reported.

Despite the drop-off, more students than ever say they “plan to” participate in a study abroad program. This year, 31% of all students said they plan to study abroad, up from 26% in 2021. 

Rayna Simons ’24, who studied abroad in Greece last spring, told The Herald she had always planned to study abroad. “It was a no-brainer,” she said. “The question wasn’t whether I would go, it was where.”


But Simon questioned studying abroad after COVID-19 restrictions affected her first year. “I wondered if I was going to have enough experience (on campus) to want to take an entire semester away from Brown,” she said.

She added that once many elements of campus life returned to normal, she felt she “had experienced enough of being a student at Brown … [to be] okay with being away for a semester.”

Only a quarter of enrolled students responded to the 2023 Enrolled Student Survey, which was sent by email to students in spring 2023. That number has steadily declined from 66% in 2011.

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The response rate “is considerably lower than it has been in the past, which is obviously concerning to us,” said Director of Institutional Research K. Tracy Barnes ’83 P’15 PhD’22.

Barnes told The Herald that the OIR isn’t sure why the response rate is decreasing.

Response rates aren’t just dropping for this survey. They also dropped for the Campus Climate Survey, the survey sent to all Brown students overseen by the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity. 

Sylvia Carey-Butler, who leads the OIED, said that their survey only had a response rate of approximately 15% this year, far lower than past response rates.

Neil Mehta

Neil Mehta is a University News section editor and design chief at The Herald. They study public health and statistics at Brown. Outside the office, you can find Neil baking and playing Tetris.


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