Recruitment Method

Recruitment Method

NSSE emails five recruitment messages directly to students. Institutions have the opportunity to significantly customize message content using NSSE’s IRB-approved message templates, thereby ensuring that message content and signatory best reflect campus culture.

The individualized survey links sent to students are embedded with unique identifiers for each student in your NSSE population. This allows students to simply click on the link and access the survey directly without supplying additional login information. Manual log in information is also supplied in the message footer so that students can still complete the survey even if they do not feel comfortable clicking on the link in the email.

In addition to the five recruitment messages sent by NSSE, institutions may also send up to three additional messages from their own campuses using NSSE’s IRB-approved message template.

Messages sent by campuses do not include the unique survey links provided in recruitment messages sent by NSSE; instead, students are directed to visit where they can manually log in using an easy, one-step verification process. Institutions that send additional messages are responsible for all aspects of the mailing (i.e., deciding when to send messages, determining their purpose, etc.). Some reasons an institution may choose to send an additional message(s) include:

  • Pre-survey announcement: A pre-survey announcement can introduce students to NSSE, provide rationale for why student participation is important, and establish NSSE’s legitimacy in advance of data collection. Since NSSE’s emails will be sent from an external email address, a pre-survey announcement can specify details students should expect, such as the sending “from” name (NSSE), the sending email address (, and the expected dates of delivery. This could be especially helpful on campuses with anti-phishing campaigns that warn students to be wary of communications from external senders.
  • Boosting response rates: Institutions that experience lower response rates than desired may choose to send additional messages to increase the number of total respondents. Messages may be sent at any time prior to the May closing of the online survey.
  • Targeting special populations: Additional messages could also be sent to all non-respondents, or to only those that are currently underrepresented in respondent count. For example, if your senior response rate is satisfactory but first-year student response rate lags, additional messages may be sent to only first-year non-respondents.

NSSE’s Institution Interface, the password-protected online portal used to manage the NSSE administration by campus contacts, provides downloads of student population files, along with survey dispositions. Campus contacts can use this file to prepare their mailing lists for additional messages.

To supplement email recruitment, institutions can post unique survey links to their student portal and/or learning management systems, such as Canvas, Blackboard, and Moodle.

How does it work?

NSSE provides individualized survey links for each student in your population, which are then posted on the individual page for distinct students within the portal by IT staff on your campus. Various institutions have graciously shared examples of how survey links have been posted.

Because portal applications are typically customized when adopted by campuses, and because there are so many applications in use, NSSE staff cannot provide technical support for how to post links. It is therefore critically important that campus contacts managing NSSE connect with colleagues in IT on your campus several months before the survey launch to determine feasibility for posting links. Since NSSE cannot consult on technical specifications, we annually solicit information from institutional contacts who successfully post these links: view technical advice for several commonly used platforms.

NSSE staff may also be able to identify willing institutions to provide general and/or technical advice directly to another institution in need of additional assistance.

Finally, institutions can also direct students to; students enter their email address and access the survey following a quick verification process. This direction is used in the additional messages sent by campuses and can also be used in promotional materials advertising NSSE around campus.