In the 1930s and 1940s, the Roper did a series of surveys for Fortune magazine that covered a wide range of topics. One of them involved views of college students. People were given a list of words, and asked to "pick the three or four that best describe your idea of what the average college student is actually like. (By that I don't mean what they should be). " Here is the list, rearranged so that it's in order of most to least frequently picked.
Views were very favorable--"ambitious" could be seen as either positive or negative, but all of the other top choices were unambiguously positive. Unfortunately, the Roper/Fortune series came to an end in 1949, and that's the only time the question was asked.