The Strategies Centre College Uses to Attain a High FDS Response Rate

March 11, 2024 | By Kevin Gray

Data Collection
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TAGS: best practices, career development, first destination, graduate outcomes, nace insights, surveys,

Centre College’s three-year average knowledge rate for its first-destination survey (FDS) stands at an impressive 98%. This is especially notable given that the survey wasn’t required for students until 2023.

Joy Asher, Centre College’s associate dean for career readiness and executive director of its Center for Career & Professional Development (CCPD), says that the CCPD reports on FDS outcomes at one year out. 

Each May, the CCPD sends a survey to graduating seniors asking about their first destinations and internship and/or undergraduate research participation and assessing key student learning outcomes.

Asher explains that until last year, this was a voluntary “senior survey,” offering a chance to win $50 prizes for completion. The initial request came from the president of the college, with follow-up emails from the CCPD. Staff would also set up tables outside of the dining hall and in the bookstore at cap and gown pickup with iPads, to encourage survey completion.

“Last year, we joined forces with academic affairs and institutional research to create an expanded ‘senior exit survey,’ which is now mandatory,” Asher adds, noting that the requirement has alleviated some of the work needed to collect the data.

“Making the Senior Exit Survey mandatory has obviously helped [us achieve a high knowledge rate], although we still spend a lot of time following up afterward with students who report they are ‘still seeking’ right before graduation.”
The CCPD has been conducting the Senior Survey since 2014, when Asher became director. Its 10-year average knowledge rate is 97%, with the lowest-ever rate during that time at 94%.

“We begin following up after students leave campus,” she says.

“For the ‘unknown’ students, we start right away. For the ‘still seeking’ students, we wait until closer to the end of the summer to give them time to complete their searches.”

She adds that CCPD staff also immediately follow up with students who have requested to talk to a career coach, which is a question asked of them on the survey.

There are several other tasks and approaches that the CCPD utilizes from August through March:

  • Call and email students at their non-Centre College email addresses, gathered on the survey;
  • Gather data on students’ major, athletic team (if applicable), and scholarship cohort (if applicable) and ask their faculty, coaches, and scholarship mentors to contact the students;
  • Gather data from and message them through professional and social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. However, Asher says checking the social media sites is becoming less and less effective as, she points out, very few students use Facebook anymore and Instagram profiles are often set to private; and
  • Ask students for assistance reaching out to their peers, including graduates the CCPD staff know well or current seniors working for the office.

“Other than the survey itself, the most effective strategy is having faculty, coaches, and peers reach out to the students,” Asher says.

“The least effective approach is us trying to reach them through their social media channels.” 

Until last year, Centre College’s FDS efforts were fully housed in the CCPD as staff gathered and analyzed all of the data and created their own report. Now, as part of a larger, campus-wide effort to gather and report data, the CCPD partnered with the marketing and communications office to create the  outcomes brochure that the CCPD shares with college’s Board of Trustees each spring. 

“Our admissions office and our athletic coaches also use these brochures as part of their student recruitment efforts and this information gets shared on our website,” Asher says.

This push to expand, elevate, and ensure a high response rate to its FDS speaks to the value Centre College places on understanding the impact it has on its students. To achieve a high FDS knowledge rate, Asher suggests:  

  • Starting early with a student survey;
  • Working with upper administrators to make it mandatory;
  • If it cannot be mandatory, getting creative in how you publicize the survey and how you incentivize responses; and
  • Employing multiple creative strategies to gather student data after they’ve graduated.

“You have to be incredibly tenacious and sometimes extra creative,” Asher explains.

“For example, before the survey was mandatory, I would email each academic program/major their major-specific data from the previous years’ class with a note saying, ‘If you’d like this data again next year, please share this survey link with all your seniors and encourage them to fill it out!’ It’s important to cast a wide net and plan to use multiple strategies to gather your data.”

blank default headshot of a user Kevin Gray is an associate editor at NACE. He can be reached at

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