Data. Let’s all say it together three more times. Data. Data. Data.

Say the word data, and eyes glaze over with visions of spreadsheets, complicated calculations, and….more spreadsheets. But data doesn’t have to be a scary word or an added burden on your already full plate. When all is said and done, data analysis will save you and your office time.


How can data help you?

Data adds validation to your argument, your requests, and your decisions. When speaking with leadership, making a case to colleagues, or deciding on a plan of action, it helps to have the numbers to drive your point home. Anecdotal information doesn’t always resonate with your audience. Cold hard numbers are hard to refute.

If advocating for more staff, wouldn’t it be empowering to be able to say, “We have 50% more advisees now than we did last year at this time. And we’re processing 18% more applications. We need additional resources to maintain this level of work and prevent burnout of our staff.”

When chatting with an aggravated faculty program leader, what if you could say, “Our data shows that 80% of students are picking programs based on their professors and departments. Our office can’t spend copious amounts of time designing posters and distributing across campus when they only account for 7% of participation. But here’s how was CAN support your department in marketing the program…”

Follow our steps below, and you’ll be on your way to finding these answers for your office.


Getting Started.


  • Look at the data that you already collect. Most likely you have a lot!


      1. Data is a powerful, yet often untapped resource. Most likely, you’re already collecting loads of data through multiple avenues. Offices collect lots of data through their applications. And universities are already compiling information for Open Doors reporting. What can you learn from these sources?
      2. Our tip – Ask students these two questions as part of their application:
        1. Where did you hear about this program?
        2. Which factors did you consider when picking a program? Please rank them from 1-5. Cost, Courses, Location, Length of Time, Type of Program, Other:
          1. How can these questions help you? Within a year, you will be able to see which channels drive students to your office. Are they deciding to study abroad due to a professor, a friend, the study abroad fair, a poster? With this information, you’ll be able to focus office energy on supporting the top sources.  In addition, you’ll be able to zone in on why students gravitate towards certain programs and not others. This information can be used in a variety of ways, such as when designing the catalog (Example: If students mostly decide on programs by location, maybe it makes more sense to design the catalog by region/country instead of program type or academics). And we can use this information as a talking point for faculty leaders and departments looking to add a study away program for their major.


  • After looking at the data you already collect, ask yourself what’s missing. What would you like to know a year from now?


      1. Our tip – If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend focusing on one of these three areas:
        1. Office Traffic: How many advising appointments have you had this year? How does this relate to what you saw last year? How many applications are you processing this year are compared to previous years? What percentage of growth are you seeing?
        2. Marketing and Outreach: In a nutshell, what works and what doesn’t? What changes need to be made, and where should we focus energy?
        3. Faculty-Led Programs: What makes a program successful? How do students decide on a program? Does cost correlate with participation?


  • Once you’ve decided where to focus your data collection energy, take steps to collect data in an easy, efficient way.


      1. Our tip – Set up the spreadsheet to work for you. The chart doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Adding in some basic formulas and charts at the top allows for quick analysis of the information. Click here to see a sample spreadsheet to track events.



    1. Our tip – The most challenging part of data analysis is getting started – deciding on which focus area would be most beneficial and then building the spreadsheet to allow for easy analysis. We provide support in both of those areas. And a free 30-minute phone call never hurt anybody, right?

By: Nicole Hughes, IEP Campus Coordinator