One of the most basic and most commonly used types of survey instruments among higher education institutions is the graduate survey. A graduate survey is a quantitative tool that is administered to recent graduates of the college or university to better understand career progression and understand how the college or university met his or her needs. Although you would think that recent graduates of a higher education institution would be highly engaged and cooperative in these survey feedback efforts, administering graduate surveys are notoriously tricky because response rates are never as high as one would expect.
Although the reasons for poor response rates for higher education graduate surveys vary (perhaps these are better suited for another blog post), certain measures should be considered to ensure your institution receives the highest possible return from graduates. Here are 7 tips to boost graduate survey response rates:
- Mobile, Mobile, Mobile. There may not be a bigger tip in this list. Younger generations are hyper-connected, with each new graduation class more e-connected than the last. As their higher education institution, you need to figure out ways to get into that mobile circle and be noticed. Think mobile numbers, groups and networks on social media, and other platforms. Go where your users are and use those venues to publicize your graduate survey efforts.
- Use multiple channels. Although mobile may be the most important channel, it should not be the sole channel. Your graduate department should look for every opportunity to plug the graduate survey efforts to generate visibility and awareness. Mention the upcoming survey to graduates before they graduate, send out letters or emails to generate pre-awareness (a week or two before survey invitations), post information on your institution’s website, send text invites to the survey and through email, and think about conducting phone call reminders to non-responders.
- Engage on social media, encourage to share. Find the platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr) your graduates are using and encourage likes and shares. To complete a survey it often takes multiple reminders and hits to finally tip the scales and have a graduate respond. Endorsements by those graduate’s friends to take the survey through social media is always one of the strongest drivers to completion.
- Strive to keep contact information current. By nature, higher education graduates are a transient audience moving from one place to another as they try to settle into a career. Because of this, they incur a higher likelihood to change phone numbers and addresses. Use the final questions of the graduate survey to include an opportunity to update contact information. Also make ‘change of address’ forms available on websites and through social media.
- Make it an engaging survey and mention why it’s important. While selling the survey, make sure to describe to graduates why these survey efforts are so important. It always helps to make questions engaging, direct, and as short as possible to decrease the likelihood of survey drop-outs. Once you have them interested, you don’t want to lose them.
- Pick your poison on timeframe to survey – 3 months, 6 months, 12 months. Although there is not a correct time to survey graduates with regard to a timeframe, typically 3 months after they graduate, 6 months or 12 months are the most common follow-up periods. The shorter the grace period, the better response rate and vice-versa. However, the longer the grace period, the higher likelihood of graduates finding employment and vice-versa. This is why RMS recommends a 6 month from graduation follow-up.
- Offer a reward, raffle, or sweepstakes. Although it’s a minor suggestion, it does help. If the graduate doesn’t buy-into the effort and importance of the survey, perhaps a little incentive will encourage them to participate.
Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. Our RMS Analytics division focuses on projects within the education and higher education industry. Relevant projects include graduate surveys, mystery shopping, enrollment studies, adult learner studies, retention studies, and focus groups on marketing messaging to name a few. If you are interested in using RMS as your graduate survey vendor contact our Director of Business Development Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.