14 Questions You Should Be Seeking to Answer Via a Back-to-Campus Survey

Whether you’re putting the finishing touches on your bulletin boards or hyping up student leaders, there’s one question that’s on everyone’s mind: How will fall 2021 be different from previous years?

Your campus has likely already issued a few return-to-campus informational emails to students, but how can you truly plan to engage and challenge students if you don’t know what their needs will be this fall?

The answer lies in assessment.

In planning for such an unpredictable semester, we owe it to students to make them partners and valued stakeholders in the process.

So here are 14 crucial questions that a well-crafted survey can help SApros answer, in order to create a better campus experience for students this fall. 

Be sure to work closely with your campus assessment director or another research expert to develop questions that will help you get the right answers from students. These experts can help you figure out the best formatting and phrasing to optimize the quality, quantity, and measurability of answers.

Returning Essentials

1. How are students feeling about returning to campus this fall?

This question could be open-ended or on a sliding scale. Students may have lots to say about how they’re feeling or  they may be more comfortable selecting a specific level to indicate their excitement or fears.

2. What safety practices are students going to engage in?

The right survey questions can help you predict what behaviors will become campus norms. For example, you can ask students to detail their plans for wearing masks, washing their hands, social distancing, and getting tested for the virus. 

3. What safety practices would students like to see in place?

Students may have honest feedback regarding campus-wide policies, such as mask requirements or rules for water fountain use. Get help from your assessment professional to gather opinions about particular safety features that your campus is considering putting into place.

4. What supplies do students need to feel safe?

Some students may arrive on campus without certain critical supplies, such as masks, hand sanitizer,or disinfecting wipes. Students may also request essential cleaning supplies to be stocked in the campus food pantry or the residential halls. Consult with your assessment expert to determine if you should leave this question open-ended or have checkboxes listing the different supplies your campus might be able to offer.

5. What campus resources do students plan on using?

This question should help you gauge where staff will be needed most. For example, students may be feeling more comfortable now, compared to last year, to attend in-person career advising or use the campus recreation center. Use checkboxes to help students remember all of the resources around campus.

Goals & Values

6. What do students want to learn more about this year?

You can help RAs choose programming topics or even plan their full events based on these responses. Consider using checkboxes to tie these topics to a feasible budget. This list of RA programming possibilities may be helpful.

7. How have students’ goals changed since last year?

As part of the great employee migration, many young workers and students have changed their minds about their desired career paths. Maybe your students are considering new majors or internship goals. You can find out by asking an open-ended question that’ll help career and academic advisors plan their workshops for the year.

Leisure & Fun

8. What activities do students want to see on campus this fall?

Gauge whether students are feeling ready for a full welcome week and a large homecoming fair, or if they are still hesitant about big social events. Include checkboxes for major campus events that are still being planned to measure potential attendance. But keep in mind that students’ opinions may change as local infection rates improve or worsen… or as students see what their peers are doing.

9. What activities do students feel absolutely need to be in-person?

Students may have strong opinions about what activities lacked in quality this past year due to being held online. Asking students to point these programs or services out can help you to hone in on the priorities — what most needs to be held face-to-face for students to reap the experiences’ optimal benefits.

10. What activities would students prefer to remain online?

On the other hand, students may prefer for other activities to stay completely virtual or at least still offered as hybrid programs. I know I prefer long meetings to be held over Zoom!

11. How are students planning on getting involved this fall?

Use students’ responses to help you plan involvement fairs or club events. Knowing their peers’ plans can even help student leaders address concerns about membership and attendance.

Open Feedback

12. What can we do to make the campus feel safer?

Open the metaphorical floor with this question to discern what policies, procedures, or resources students require to feel as safe as possible.

13. What are students’ biggest concerns about coming back to campus?

Discover what may be holding students back from participating fully in campus activities so that you can plan solutions or alternative program plans ahead of time.

14. Why did students choose to return to campus?

While this may not apply to some schools that are only offering in-person classes this fall, you should focus on the positive. Encourage students to reflect on what they want out of their in-person campus experience. Their responses can help you determine where students may need the most support this fall. 

Additionally, remember to build with best survey design practices in mind and get students involved in your assessments.

How is your campus preparing for this upcoming semester? Connect with us on Twitter @themoderncampus.


Corinna Kraemer

About the author: Corinna Kraemer (she/her) works in ed tech and loves painting, running, and hanging out with her cat, Mr. K. She hopes her posts will finally help her dad understand what her career in student affairs is all about. Learn how we can help get your students involved.