Perceptions, Expectations, Emotions and Knowledge about College

The PEEK, Perceptions, Expectations, Emotions and Knowledge, about college is a powerful assessment tool designed to help each student identify his/her ideas, attitudes, beliefs, and expectations about college. A student’s expectations about the college experience have a powerful influence on thoughts and actions in college. The degree to which a student’s expectations accurately reflect the college environment will have a critical impact on academic performance and satisfaction. Many academically able and gifted students drop out of college during their first year because of personal, social, or academic expectations that are not fulfilled or that are inaccurate. The PEEK was developed to alert students to possible discrepancies and help them to develop more accurate perceptions of their college environment.

PEEK Categories:

  • Academic Experiences
    Expectations about the difficulty of college courses, the nature of learning in college, the roles and responsibilities of college instructors, and the nature of instruction in college.
  • Personal Experiences
    Expectations about the emotional reactions to college, the degree to which the student is prepared to do college-level work, how college fits into future goals, and the degree to which students must take personal responsibility for their own learning.
  • Social Experiences
    Expectations about social pressures in college, interactions between students and instructors, the nature and make-up of college populations, and relationships between students and their family/friends.

A completed PEEK yields information about each of these dimensions of the college experience. The PEEK consists of 30 items and the student is asked to indicate, using a five-point rating scale ranging from not at all likely to extremely likely, the extent to which they expect to experience in college what is described in each item. These 30 items are organized into three categories with 10 items in each category.


The PEEK was developed at the University of Texas at Austin by Claire E. Weinstein, Ph.D., David R. Palmer, Ph.D., and Gary R. Hanson, Ph.D.

Uses of PEEK Data

  • Increasing Student Awareness
    Examining, confronting, clarifying, and reconsidering ones own perceptions will help a student become more aware of his/her expectations about college. This increased awareness can alert the student to possible problem areas and encourage an exploration of any inconsistencies. The first step in correcting misperceptions is to know they exist.
  • Using PEEK Results in Counseling Situations
    Students whose perceptions and expectations appear to be somewhat inconsistent with those of the institution, are likely to benefit from counseling that explores those inconsistencies.
  • Using PEEK Results in a Freshman Seminar Course or Program
    Individual PEEK results can be used in Freshman Seminar Courses or Programs to generate valuable discussions aimed at developing better ideas of what attending college will be like. Depending on individual PEEK responses, the instructor could adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of the class. Success in school is not simply a result of possessing good reading, math, writing, and study skills. Many students leave higher education because of a mismatch between their expectations and the realities that confront them. Examining these expectations and correcting possible inconsistencies or mismatches with the institution can significantly affect retention.