Achieve a 90% Response Rate to Your Alcohol & Drug Survey

The typical response rate for college alcohol and drug surveys is somewhere between 25 and 35%. But at Stetson University, more than 90% of the freshman class completes the MyStudentBody Essentials course—even though it’s not mandatory. What strategy produces those results?

The answer is: lots of strategies – and the key is to use more than one.

Working with Stetson’s Director of Health Education and Wellness, Lynn Stadelman, MyStudentBody product coordinator Tyler Achilles determined four elements that, used together, encourage the best possible response rate. “Most of these strategies are things prevention professionals are already doing. We found that what was most important was to do all of these things,” Achilles explained. “But we also found some small tweaks that could really improve a strategy’s effectiveness.” Some examples:

1) Advance notification: Sending advance notification by [snail] mail is especially useful in getting students to take Web-based surveys. It literally gives more weight to the request. Achilles notes it’s also an opportunity to send an incentive.

2) Incentives: Surprisingly, offering a guaranteed low-cost incentive—such as a free soda at the college café—to everyone who takes your survey raises response rates more effectively than offering a chance at a higher-value prize that only a few will win.

3) Reminders: The magic number for emailed reminders turns out to be three. After that, reminders don’t generate much further response, and may start to seem intrusive.

4) Sharing the results: Students want to know how their responses contribute to shaping policy; they also want to see how their answers compare to those of their peers. Knowing they’ll see group results increases student participation.

To see more of Achilles and Stadelman’s advice, view the poster they presented in January at NASPA’s Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention and Intervention Conference in Atlanta.

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