OUR METHODOLOGY

What is College Pulse?


College Pulse is an online survey and analytics company dedicated to understanding the attitudes, preferences, and behaviors of today’s college students. College Pulse offers custom data-driven marketing and research solutions, utilizing its unique American College Student Panel that includes over 350,000 undergraduate college student respondents from more than 1000 two- and four-year colleges and universities in all 50 states.

Why do we focus on college students?


We believe that today’s college students are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, activists, tastemakers, and leaders. It’s a demographic that is growing, increasingly diverse. There are currently roughly 20 million students enrolled in American colleges and universities, a 25 percent increase from 2000. That is 20 million “entry point consumers” who are still developing their brand preferences. In fact, college students are also already making an impact as consumers. Today’s college students are poised to rack up over $300 billion in discretionary spending. They are immersed in digital marketing from an early age and particularly in the field of technology, their consumer preferences are now informing their parents spending decisions.

How do college students complete interviews?


If they are selected to participate in a study, an invitation to complete the survey is sent directly to their student email address. Panelists also receive a notification in the smartphone app alerting them that a survey is ready for them to take. Students can complete the survey using the College Pulse App that is available on iOS and Android platforms. They can also login directly on the College Pulse website to complete the survey on their computer. Given the high penetration of smartphones on college campuses--97% of students own smartphones1--College Pulse surveys are specifically designed to be taken on this platform. We believe that this is the future of survey research.

How do we recruit college students to be part of its Undergraduate Student Panel?


Panel members are recruited by a number of methods to help ensure student diversity in the panel population, including web advertising, permission-based email campaigns, and partnerships with university-affiliated organizations. To ensure that the panel reflects the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the American college population we recruit panelists from a wide variety of different institutions. The panel includes students attending large public universities, small private colleges, historically black colleges like Howard University and religiously-affiliated schools such as Brigham Young University and Southern Methodist University.

How does College Pulse validate panelists?


College Pulse uses a two-stage validation process to ensure that all its surveys include only students currently enrolled in four-year colleges or universities. Students are required to provide an .edu email address to join the panel and required to verify that they are currently enrolled either part-time or full-time in a four-year degree program. All invitations to complete surveys are sent using the student’s .edu email address.

How does College Pulse ensure its surveys reflect the views of college students nationally?


Our goal is to design high-quality surveys that provide insights about the experiences and attitudes of college students. To accomplish this goal, we rebalance surveys to ensure that the demographic distribution of the sample matches the national population of college students. We apply a post-stratification adjustment based on demographic distributions from multiple data sources, including the 2017 Current Population Survey (CPS), the 2016 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), and the 2017-18 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The post-stratification weight rebalances the sample based on a number of important benchmark attributes, such as race, gender, class year, voter registration status, and financial aid status. The sample weighting is accomplished using an iterative proportional fitting (IFP) process that simultaneously balances the distributions of all variables. Weights are trimmed to prevent individual interviews from having too much influence on the final results.

How does College Pulse ensure response quality?


College Pulse works hard to ensure that the data we collect accurately represents the universe of college students. We use more than 20 demographic categories to target the most representative subsamples of our college panel based on the specific needs of each client. To ensure top-quality surveys, we subject all client-submitted surveys to a question design and methodology review before release. We also automatically detect and remove unreliable responders (such as those speeding or straightlining) from surveys.

What is the average response rate of our surveys?


The response rates for College Pulse surveys are generally consistent with industry leaders. Response rates matter because low rates can undermine the reliability of the results and adversely affect statistical power. College Pulse employs a unique approach to ensure high levels of panel engagement that focuses on three things: incentives, cost and trust. Instead of focusing solely on rewards, College Pulse builds trust with panelists by providing them an option to review the results of the surveys that they take. We also solicit feedback regularly from panelists that provides them an opportunity to communicate about their experience and we use this information to improve and refine our approach. Panelists can acquire Pulse Points for every survey they take and redeem them for a chance to win prizes like an iPhone, electric bike, gift cards and headphones. Finally, College Pulse takes survey design seriously and we work with our partners and clients to ensure that the structure, length and language we use is optimized for the survey takers. We also make answering surveys convenient. The College Pulse app allows panelists to complete surveys at a time and place that works for them.

How does College Pulse ensure its panelists confidentiality?


College Pulse takes our users’ security and privacy concerns seriously. We strive to ensure that user data is kept secure, and that we collect only as much personal data as is required to make our users’ experience with College Pulse as efficient and satisfying as possible. Panelists' email addresses are never displayed publicly or privately in connection with their poll responses. To protect college students from having their responses attributed to them personally, identifying information (i.e., demographics) is only shared with fellow panelists if the number of respondents who match the selected demographic exceeds five. For more information on how we keep our panelists' responses confidential and secure, see our privacy policy.

I’m a college student! How do I sign-up to complete surveys?


If you are an undergraduate student currently enrolled in a four-year college or university you can download the College Pulse app on your smartphone. You can also sign-up on the College Pulse website. Once you sign-up, you have to complete a short demographic survey and you can begin sharing your opinion and learning about what your campus thinks.

How can I learn more?


If you have any further questions, please reach out to our Survey Methodology team at methodology@collegepulse.com.

1 Jeffrey Pomerantz and D. Christopher Brooks, 2017 ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research, 2017

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