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  • Collecting and Using Outcomes Data

    February 07, 2018 | By NACE Staff

    Best Practices
    Students fill out information about where they're headed after college.

    TAGS: first destination, graduate outcomes, best practices, spotlight, career development

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

    How do colleges and universities get students to report their first-destination data and how do career centers use the data they collect? That’s what one NACE college member asked recently in the NACE Community.

    There are challenges, particularly with the data collection. Students don’t understand why the information is collected, said a community member, and that they can update their responses as their circumstances change. Some students don’t know that they can call upon the career services office after graduation while looking for work or to further their educations.

    Another career services professional remarked that it was time to erase the myth that the office only helps develop resumes.

    Collecting the Data

    Schools mentioned a variety of ways to market the outcomes survey to students and to entice new graduates into participating.

    Many career centers send e-mails to graduating students urging them to participate in the survey. Some schools require survey completion before or during cap-and-gown pickup. Others survey students by placing laptops in high-traffic areas on campus, making it easy for graduating students to complete the survey. Several career centers extend their reach to graduating students by calling on faculty who are teaching capstone courses—by e-mail and in person—to encourage students to complete the survey.

    One university shared videos about the survey on social media and created information cards on how to access the survey to share with graduating students, faculty, and staff partners.

    One school found success by raffling off diploma frames to students who complete the survey before graduation. Another career center found a higher response rate by calling grads in the evening.

    At another university, the registrar’s office sends an e-mail to students who haven’t completed a survey with the subject line: Important Graduation Application Materials Missing—Immediate Action Required.

    “This gives a sense of urgency for students to complete the survey and has helped increase completion numbers,” the career services director noted.

    “The entire campus community must be involved in this effort of collecting grad data,” said one career services director. “As someone who started in career services [more than] 18 years ago, I will tell you that we were having this same discussion back then, and, even now, there are no easy methods or answers.”

    Many university members said they would like to make the outcomes survey a requirement for graduation. A career center director explains, “This is data everyone on campus wants and expects the institution to have, so it can be frustrating to have to spend so much career center time, energy, and money to collect it. We are an office of only two full-time staff, after all. It has taken a lot of meetings and discussions, but I am hoping we are getting close to having others on campus support our endeavors when collecting this data.”

    Another problem, noted a community member, is that “at graduation time in May, a good number of grads are not yet set with an opportunity. So while we might be getting a lot of data, there are many ‘still seeking’ responses. These do not fall off our list, and we will continue contacting the grads until we can move them from a ‘still seeking’ to a ‘set’ category. There is a large group that will take a few months to find and secure their opportunity, whether that is grad school or employment.”

    Sharing the Data

    More than one school has partnered with institutional research staff to collaborate on data analysis and reporting. There are several ways—beyond NACE’s First-Destination Survey—that schools can use the data they collect. Those mentioned in the NACE Community include:

    • In marketing recruitment and admissions materials directed to new students;
    • On the school website;
    • In meetings with the deans and faculty; and
    • In a gap analysis to determine where to direct more services and programs.

    “Our outcomes and salary survey and descriptions of all our services are published in an annual report,” said one career center director, “but always our emphasis in our proactive outreach to looking graduates is not data gathering, but to provide tangible assistance—job leads and specifics to improve [a student’s] personal branding and job-search materials.”

    Join the conversation and share your experience in getting new graduates to complete a first-destination survey in the NACE Community.