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Why Surveys of Your High School’s Graduates Don’t Work

by NSC Blog | Jul 17, 2017 | K-12, Research Services, StudentTracker for High Schools |

Many high schools understand the importance of collecting data on what their graduates do after high school ends. To obtain that information, some high schools send out surveys to recently graduated students (or students who are about to graduate). They may even pay a third-party survey company to distribute surveys and compile the responses.

But graduation survey data is often misleading. In fact, one of the most common reactions schools express after receiving their first StudentTracker for High Schools report is surprise. Is your school basing its college preparation initiatives on the wrong assumptions?

Three reasons why surveys of your high school’s graduates don’t paint an accurate picture

1. Intentions vs. reality

Graduation survey data captures student intentions, which may be different from what actually happens. While a given student may plan to matriculate in the fall semester, many times the reality is different when August rolls around. Actual postsecondary attendance rates are generally lower – sometimes significantly lower – than graduation survey data suggests.

If your school is using students’ self-reported intentions as a college preparedness indicator, chances are the percentages are too high. Rather than basing your school’s plans on students’ hopes, StudentTracker for High Schools tells you what really transpired.

2. Low response rates

Optional surveys of graduating seniors have notoriously poor response rates, in some cases as low as 10 percent of a given graduating class.

In contrast, StudentTracker for High Schools pulls data from 98 percent of colleges and universities in the United States. This means that with very few exceptions, your team will learn whether each student in a given cohort enrolled, attended, persisted, and graduated from a two- or four-year postsecondary institution.

3. Skewed responses

No news isn’t necessarily good news when it comes to surveying a student’s postsecondary education plans. The percentage of students who respond to a post-graduation survey can be skewed toward those who plan to attend college. The resulting selection bias, in which students are more likely to submit the survey if they have something positive to report, undermines the results.

StudentTracker for High Schools data comes directly from colleges and universities, resulting in meaningful data about whether your school’s graduates are enrolling in – and graduating from – college.

Learn more about StudentTracker for High Schools and how you can use it to get the accurate data you need to improve your college preparation initiatives.

Visit the Clearinghouse Academy to access our StudentTracker for High Schools on-demand webinars, tutorials, and more.

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