student success

5 Steps for Successfully Administering the Satisfaction-Priorities Survey

Shannon CookSenior Consultant, Retention SolutionsJuly 21, 2022
Blog: 5 Steps for Administering Student Satisfaction Surveys
Student participation is critical when surveying students about their satisfaction.

It’s one thing to administer a survey and it’s another to successfully administer a survey. In recent years, RNL has shifted to 100 percent online administrations for satisfaction surveys. Online surveying offers the benefits of inviting the entire student population to complete the survey and reduces the logistics for handling paper surveys. However, without a captive audience for completing the survey in a classroom setting, you will want to keep these tips in mind to be prepared for a successful online administration. 

Here are five tips to consider when preparing for your next student satisfaction survey administration.

1. Plan

Students are inundated with messaging from across campus, whether that be from instructors, campus engagement opportunities, career planning workshops, practice schedules, and the like. Therefore, sending yet another email asking students to complete a “survey” (without any context as to how it will benefit them) is a surefire way to have that email deleted as soon as it hits their inboxes.

When planning for your survey administration, you must be intentional with your marketing messaging and create a multi-touch campaign. Some ideas include:

  • Using infographics to highlight how you have used past years results to positively impact the student experience. Display these fun/easy to read “advertisements” in heavy traffic areas on your campus.
  • Explaining what the survey is about, why you value their feedback, and what you plan to do with the data.
  • Create a hype countdown on your student portal, Twitter feed, Facebook page, Tik Tok, or Snap Chat, that gives your students a heads up that the survey will be launching soon.

By planning ahead, creating a broad awareness of the survey, when it will be available, and what’s in it for the students, you are setting yourself up for the best possible response rate (and a high level of confidence when you review your data).

2. The sender matters

In my inbox, every single email from my boss, RNL’s president, or a campus partner has been opened and read. Other emails may be flagged but not necessarily read.

For nearly everyone, the sender of an email impacts how we prioritize and respond to the message. It’s the same for your students. An email from your college president, dean of student life, or your student Government is going to get more visibility and immediate attention than an email from IR or IE.

With that being said, you know your student population the best so you will want to use the “sender” you think will give you the most traction.

3. Be sincere

Students need to understand that you are mindful of the challenges they have been facing for the last couple of years.Therefore, on the surface, asking them to complete a satisfaction survey may seem like you are out of touch with the competing priorities they may have. However, you can change how students perceive your survey request simply by adjusting your approach. Consider two examples:

  • Example 1:
    • Tell us how satisfied you are with your student experience. Complete the survey today!
  • Example 2:
    • What can we be doing better to enhance your student experience? Tell us today!

Example 2 puts the student at the center of your initiatives, while example 1 positions the institution first, student second.Don’t underestimate the power of heartfelt, student-centered messages!

4. Incentives work

But only if they are good—and by good, I mean useful and of value. If you have the budget to give incentives for completing the survey, think about what your students need. What financial burden can you take off their plate? This also relates back to that idea of being sincere in asking them for their assistance and with providing something of value to them in return.

Here are a few examples of successful incentives:

  • Free lunch (if you can offer this to everyone who completes the survey that’s even better).
  • Coffee on the house—utilize a local coffee shop.
  • A month’s worth of free public transportation for urban campuses/semester of free parking for residential campus or even premium parking spot reserved for them.
  • Scholarships/credit hours—yes, schools actually do this and it works.
  • College swag (sweatshirts, stadium blankets, water bottles, umbrellas, hats, etc.)—this one is fun but may not be as “needed” as the suggestions above.

Once you determine your incentives, make them work for you.Drive survey momentum with weekly give-a-ways as a strategy to keep your students engaged. For example:

Subject: Shannon – more incentives coming your way – give us your thoughts to win!
Hello Shannon,
The responses are rolling in and we have more Institution Name sweatshirt winners to announce!
Wednesday and Thursday’s winners were:
•Institution Name sweatshirts for XXXX, XXXX,, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, and XXXX,.

And if you have not completed the survey yet, you are in luck! You have the weekend to give us your feedback and you won’t be disappointed in the give-a-ways we have coming…1-$50 and 1-$100 Amazon gift card!

What are you waiting for? Tell us how we can make your college experience better by completing the survey today!

5. Timely reminders

A reminder every day is over the top, but a reminder every two weeks is pointless.Instead, map out the duration of your survey administration and plan your reminders accordingly.If your survey is open for two weeks, then send two emails week one (the initial one and a reminder), then two more reminders in week two.For a three-week survey, we suggest an initial invite week one, reminder week two, and two final reminders in week three.

The goal with reminders is to catch the students at a time when they are able to take the survey. Therefore, switch up the days in which you send your emails, make sure you are announcing weekly winners (if offering that type of incentive structure) and always create a “sense of urgency” so students understand that they are missing out if they don’t complete the survey today.

Preparing for your next survey administration

Approximately half of the institutions we work with survey their students during the fall semester, anytime between early October and early December. Because we deliver results within three weeks of the online administration closing, data gathered during the fall can be used during the current academic year to inform student success efforts, provide the student voice for strategic planning activities, document improvements for accreditation purposes, and identify strengths to promote while recruiting new students. Spring administrations are utilized by the other half of the clients we work with. Data from a spring semester survey can support the same efforts on campus later in the year and be reviewed in more detail over the summer months before the next academic year.

Do you want to learn more about gathering and using student satisfaction data? I invite you to join our webinar, Student Satisfaction Data: Taking Action for Student Success. This webinar features three client institutions sharing their experiences and providing ideas to help you to successfully assess student satisfaction. Learn more here.

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About the Author

Shannon Cook

Shannon Cook assists colleges and universities with using our assessment tools, market research, and management consulting to improve student persistence and degree completion rates. She is experienced in addressing questions about RNL retention assessments including...

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