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  • First-Destination Data Collection a Campus Effort at UD

    June 12, 2018 | By NACE Staff

    Best Practices
    A group of college students walking on campus.

    TAGS: first destination, graduate outcomes, surveys, spotlight, career development

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

    At the University of Delaware, data collection for the university’s first-destination survey is a multi-level and campus-wide effort. This approach has led to the university attaining increasingly high knowledge rates.

    For the Class of 2017, the University of Delaware collected first-destination data for 3,282 of its 3,963 bachelor’s graduates for an 83 percent knowledge rate. In addition, since the university is focused on understanding the paths of all of its degrees, this initiative netted high knowledge rates for its master’s (817 out of 939 graduates for an 87 percent knowledge rate) and doctoral (283 out of 300 graduates for a 94 percent knowledge rate) graduates as well. 

    Nathan Elton, director of career services, works closely with a counterpart in institutional research on planning out the university’s data-gathering process.

    “Like everything else in our field, attaining a high knowledge rate is all about the relationships you build,” Elton says. “You need to have a network of partners across campus and good communication to do so. Graduates are much more likely to respond to surveys and provide information if they're hearing from people who they know and are connected to within the university in what could be a shared affinity around an academic program, an athletic team, a student organization, or some other area.”  

    These key partnerships include one with the vice president of enrollment management, who sends a message to each dean and academic department giving them a heads up that they will be hearing from career services and institutional research with the request to send out the first-destination survey links to their graduates.

    The messaging to the departments explains that the data is used, in part, to recruit students into their programs, so it benefits them to have accurate data and a high knowledge rate. This connection has helped net nearly 100 percent participation from departments across campus.

    “Having someone who is an upper-level voice and an administrator send that first message is powerful,” Elton says, adding that career services and institutional research provides a sample message that the departments can tailor when sending out the survey link to their graduates.

    On the other end, graduates receive the survey link from faculty members or academic advisers they know, which, Elton says, helps to drive up participation.

    “Over the past couple years, we've made more of an effort to have a community-based outreach effort,” he explains. “We have seen about a 20 percent increase in our survey knowledge rates by using these connections across campus.”

    Those efforts are followed by attempts to gather data on individual students from:

    • The National Student Clearinghouse;
    • LinkedIn, social media, and Internet searches; and
    • Employers, faculty, and staff updates on graduates.

    “We're not going to get salary information through these methods, but at least we get to know if our graduates are working full-time and, if so, their employer and title, and the city they're in,” Elton says.

    The first-destination data is available for all to view and use on the University of Delaware’s outcomes website, which includes data for its bachelor’s-, master’s-, and doctoral-level graduates from the classes of 2015 through 2017. Visitors to the site can view outcomes for the entire university, a college, or a specific major/graduate program, and they can see the data for each year or combine all the class years into one master dataset.

    “Having a high knowledge rate has helped us to better understand our students, focus resources, and develop new programs and initiatives to meet their needs,” Elton explains.

    Elton says data collection efforts in the 2018-19 academic year will also include a focus on Greek Life. And, whereas past incentives for graduates to participate in the survey included gift card and iPad giveaways, this summer and fall, a donation of $1 will be made to UDANCE, a student-run charity supporting children’s cancer research, for each completed survey received.

    Elton has several recommendations for boosting efforts around the First-Destination Survey:

    • Be mindful and plan—Don’t wait until graduation or close to it to think about how you're going to collect your graduates’ first-destination information. Start planning in the fall so that you can establish timelines and processes, and you can be thoughtful about the types of questions to ask on the survey.
    • Customize your survey—The University of Delaware follows NACE First-Destination Survey Standards, so those recommended questions are included in the survey. But the university adds in custom questions that are helpful in better understanding its graduates and their needs. Engage others across campus to determine what information is useful to them, and build additional questions into the survey to gain this insight. However, be careful not to add too many questions in, which could make the survey too large and prevent some graduates from responding.
    • Develop relationships across campus around this effort—These key partnerships will be invaluable in your efforts to secure a high knowledge rate. Make sure that everyone is clear as to the process and what their roles are. Having institutional research, enrollment management, deans, academic advisers, faculty, coaches, and others encourage participation is very beneficial in supporting your efforts.
    • Keep learning—There’s a lot to learn from other individuals and schools. Look at their surveys, the processes they use for collecting their data, how they report their outcomes, and more. Share ideas and challenges, and your work with your career services colleagues in person, on the phone, and in other ways, such as in the NACE Community. Seek out good ideas and best practices, and implement them.

    “When it comes to the First-Destination Survey, multiple campus units have worked together to drastically increase our bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral knowledge rates, and to present this information through a dynamic website that is heavily used by prospective students, academic departments, and other university stakeholders,” Elton says.

    “I deeply appreciate the partnership and support received from across the institution, and am excited to work with my colleagues at the University of Delaware on new ideas, angles, and approaches to collect and use this critical information.”