Registration for the 2023 HEDS Returning Student Survey is now closed.

HEDS Returning Student Survey

The HEDS Returning Student Survey is uniquely designed to be actionable. Unlike a traditional survey that provides your institution with aggregate information about your students, this survey is designed to strengthen the connection between your institution and the students who take the survey.

The survey prompts your existing students to reflect on their vision of post-college success, their reasons for staying in college, and the college experiences that have most prepared them to accomplish their goals for life. It encourages them to talk to people at your institution about these goals.

The survey works by fostering an interaction between your students and your institution. As a result:

  • Your students will have a clearer picture of their goals and a better understanding of how their experiences in college are helping them achieve those goals.
  • Your students will be reminded of their reasons for completing their degree.
  • Your institution will have a better sense of what your students hope to achieve and which experiences have had the most impact for your students.
  • Your institution will be able to better monitor and address your students’ worries and concerns.
  • Your institution will build stronger connections with students by holding meaningful conversations with them about their goals and aspirations.

If you’re interested in learning more about the goals of new students starting at your institution this fall, you can administer the HEDS New Student Survey in tandem with the HEDS Returning Student Survey.

HEDS Student Success Project

We developed the HEDS Returning Student and New Student Surveys from work we did in our HEDS student success project. We wanted to learn first-hand the ways that students think about their success, so we conducted focus groups at HEDS member institutions. We then created these surveys to expand on and continue that work. You can read an article describing the project and the development of the surveys on our Findings page.

Click on the following questions to learn more.

Traditional surveys create a one-way flow of information from survey respondents to the survey administrator. The HEDS Returning Student Survey is aimed at fostering an interaction between students and their institutions.

  • When they complete the survey, students receive a link that takes them to a summary of how other students at their institution responded to the survey. They may check back as often as they like to see updates.
  • The survey asks students whether they would like to have a follow-up conversation with someone at your institution about their goals for the future and ways to improve their college experience. The survey automatically sends a summary of each student’s responses to the people who’ve been designated to have follow-up conversations with students. We will work with you to help identify people on your campus who would have these follow-up conversations and to ensure that student’s requests go to the right people.
  • Immediately after a student completes their survey, they will receive an email with a copy of their responses to the survey so they have a record of how they responded.

The 2023 HEDS Returning Student Survey can be administered for a 3-6 week period between July 17 and September 30, 2023.

The survey is for students who have already attended your institution and are eligible to return in the fall.

Please register at least four weeks before you plan to administer the survey, to allow us time to work through the administration details and testing with you.

Institutions that administer the HEDS Returning Student Survey will receive:

  • an online report which will give a real-time summary of responses to some of the closed-ended survey questions;
  • a ready-to-share summary report of findings;
  • SPSS and Microsoft Excel files with your participants’ responses, including responses to all open-ended questions. The SPSS file will have values/labels added.

YES!  Here’s how:

  • We insert your institution’s name at the top of each page of the survey
  • You can customize parts of Question 5 – which asks students about high-impact experiences such as service learning, internships, and off-campus study programs – with the names of specific programs at your institution.
  • You can select the particular people/offices at your institution that students can ask to have a conversation with
  • You can customize the survey invitations and reminders
  • You can add up to three custom, institution-specific questions at the end of the survey

While you can add three supplemental questions to the end, we do not modify our survey questions or response options. In order for us to offer the benefit of comparative data between participating institutions in our survey reports, the questions and response options have to be the same across all the colleges and universities using the survey.

The survey is free to HEDS member institutions. The base cost for institutions not in HEDS is $1,325.

This survey is one part of a suite of surveys and data exchanges focused on student success that are free as part of HEDS membership.

To learn more about becoming a HEDS member, please visit our Join HEDS page.

If you have any questions, please email us at, and we will get back to you right away.

Please contact us with any questions or to be notified when the HEDS Returning Student Survey opens for registration.

Email HEDS