National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen


Public Data

As of Summer 2008 all five waves of the NLSF are available for public use and all waves can be merged to the baseline data (Wave 1) using the respondents’ unique case ID.

Wave 1, the baseline survey, includes detailed information on student’s background, such as family structure, neighborhood and school characteristics, at age 6, 12, and one year prior to entering college. Wave 1 also includes information about student’s preparation for college, peer networks, and racial/ethnic attitudes. Wave 1 data include summary variables about the respondent’s household. A separate file (household roster) contains information about each household member.

In July 2005, we added two new files for public release. First, we released the indices presented in tables B1-B12 of Source of the River. Second, we released an institutional characteristics file that contains detailed information about the schools each respondent attended, such as their racial make-up and average class size, measured both in 2001-2002 and 1998-1999. Each of these files can be merged to the public dataset using the respondent’s unique case ID.

Waves 2 and 3 were released in September 2006. Wave 2 contains detailed information about courses taken, grades earned, social networks, time use, living arrangements, financial matters, relationships, and students’ perceptions of prejudice on campus. Wave 3 contains much of the same information, plus the factors in the students’ decision to attend college, information on high school SAT scores, majors chosen, career plans, and employment while in school.

In June 2008 we released Waves 4 and 5. Both waves contain similar information as Waves 2 and 3 for junior and senior years. In addition, Wave 4 includes information about expected degree, mentoring received, extracurricular group involvement, personal health and emotional problems. Wave 5 includes information about terms studied abroad, college debts, future plans for employment, career, and higher education, and respondents’ perception of the own/other racial and ethnic groups in terms of identity, incidences of discrimination and prejudice, as well as certain opinions and behavior.

In June 2008 we also released information on graduation rates (Graduation Data). This information has been drawn from offices of the registrar at the 28 colleges and universities in the NLSF, and the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), a nonprofit organization providing post-secondary and secondary student degree, diploma and enrollment verification. The data includes information on whether respondents graduated within 4 or 6 years and a summary measure of the paths taken by the NLSF students in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.


In order to download the NLSF data, please visit the OPR Data Archive.

NLSF Brochure