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What, why, who, when, how, confidentiality

Methodology | First destination survey

What, why, who:

  • The First Destination Report is based on self-report by graduates, through six months after commencement.
  • All Virginia Tech graduates who apply for *undergraduate degrees are asked to self-report their first destination.
    *Undergraduate degrees include bachelor's and associate's degrees; Virginia Tech has one associate's degree program.
  • Data collection is conducted with the graduates for the academic year.
    For example, the 2020-2021 report is based on survey responses from graduates who completed undergraduate degrees in December 2020, winter term 2021, May 2021, and summer terms 2021.
  • The primary purpose is to learn the current status of graduates regarding their first destination after the undergraduate degree — whether they have accepted employment, are serving in the military, volunteering, continuing education (graduate or professional school, or other), or are seeking employment or continued education. (We do not ask graduates what they plan or hope to do, so they should not respond that they are employed if they are in fact in the process of seeking employment.)
    • We also ask graduates how they prepared for life after college, including what career-related experience they had, and if they have regrets about their preparation.
  • We publish responses viewable by major, college and total university.
  • The First Destination Report is used by the Virginia Tech Office of Analytics and Institutional Effectiveness: Student Consumer Information to meet federal requirements for disclosure and reporting of data on "student outcomes," specifically employment and graduate/professional school "placement" following the undergraduate degree.

When, how:  Timing and process:

  • Self-reporting is online, continuously open for seven months.
    • Timing: December and winter* term graduates are a subcohort, and May and summer term graduates are a subcohort.
    • *Winter term grads were included starting with the 2019-2020 academic year; they comprised less than four percent of that subcohort, and less than one percent of the academic year's graduates.
    • Survey opens approximately one month before commencement; November for December and winter graduates; April for May and summer graduates. (Note in 2020, we delayed opening the survey for May and summer 2020 grads due to the impact of Covid-19.)
    • Survey closes at six months after commencement; mid-June for December and winter grads, and mid-November for May and summer grads.
  • Graduates can respond and update their responses through six months after commencement.
    • Therefore, graduates who are seeking employment or applying to continuing education at the time of commencement can update their responses when they secure employment or admission, up to six months after commencement. Periodic email reminders ask them to do so.
  • Eligible graduates are invited to self-report. Login uses VT PID and password so only eligible graduates can self-report.
    • Log in access is based on the completion term in each individual's Application for Degree (AFD) with the University Registrar.
    • Graduates are not asked to provide major or graduation term. That information is pulled from university data.
    • For 15 years, from 2003-2004 through 2017-2018, we used a system built internally by CPD staff to survey graduates and hold and report the data.
    • Beginning with the 2018-2019 graduates, we use a vendor product, Handshake, for the survey instrument and to collect the data.
  • Self-reporting is user-friendly.
    • Self-reporting takes under five minutes.

Confidentiality in reporting, and aggregage data:

  • Individual responses are confidential.
    • Names of individual graduates are not published.
    • Individual responses are not shared with anyone.
  • Individual salary data is confidential.
    • Individual salary responses are not published or connected to an individual's job title or employer.
    • Salary data is shown in aggegate by major and college, where a sufficient number of responses are received. Median is shown if four or more salaries are reported. The 25th and 75th percentiles are shown if 12 or more salaries are reported.
    • Medians are reported based on recommendation of university personnel with expertise in assessment and evaluation. Averages can be skewed by outliers.


  • Career and Professional Development has administered this data collection on behalf of the university beginning with the 2003-2004 graduates.