How Colleges and Universities Use Surveys To Gather Student Data

by | Mar 13, 2019 | Education

Reading Time: 4 minutes

When you think data and analytics, chances are you think numbers. But it’s not just numbers, especially in the field of higher education. Sure, there are grades and tuition and percentages and calculations, but there are also pieces of information that are qualitative instead of quantitative.

The students and their experiences provide data that is every bit as valuable as the countless numbers that are being crunched on college campuses. Some schools are struggling with how to measure those experiences…while others have figured it out by going straight to the source.

Using data from surveys in the recruitment process

Some schools may be asking the right questions in order to get data they can use…but then failing to use that data in the right way. A recent survey found that nearly 90% of students considered personalization in their communications during the application process to be an influential factor in their school choices, and about half of students who applied to more than one college said poor communication turned them off of a school. Yet when students applied to schools and supplied their intended majors, only a little more than half saw responses from the schools that referenced those majors. Those who shared information about career goals saw even less of a response that referred to those goals, and the downward trend continued with students who supplied information about what they participated in during high school. Even fewer schools referred to that information in an effort to draw those students to their campus.

There may not be much that separates a student’s top few choices about where to continue their education. A school using information it has already gathered to make a targeted pitch to an individual student could be the difference between that student choosing one school over a competitor.

Student surveys and retention

At Southern Connecticut State University, students fill out a survey in one of their first contacts with the school, new student orientation. That survey asks students if there is any reason they might not come to SCSU in the fall. The data from that survey allows SCSU to focus on retention. If there are any answers that indicate hesitation on a student’s part, the survey is forwarded to the appropriate campus office almost immediately so it might be able to intervene.

Surveys could help relationships with alumni

In the same survey referenced above, 95% of development administrators said if they could access more data about students, they believe they could have a better relationship with alumni. This makes sense when you consider that alumni who were surveyed said that when they were asked to give money, very few times did the ask align with their personal interests. Likewise, they said they were more likely to donate if they knew their money was being used to fund programs they personally cared about.

The data analysts at SCSU pride themselves on being able to identify trends in the data that show student success. They believe the insights from data help administrators and students focus on factors they can control rather than elements – like how a high school experience prepared a student for college – that are out of their control.

There is no shortage of data in any aspect of the college process…it’s what the schools do with that data that can be the difference in students coming to the school, enjoying their experience, or remembering the school once they are gone. After all, students who have a positive college experience are more likely to donate to that school upon graduation.

It doesn’t take a data analyst to figure out how that could benefit the school.

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