Data in Higher Education: Telling Your Story Through Your Numbers

Carnegie Higher Ed Oct 12, 2018 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

What’s more likely to catch a potential student’s attention when they’re searching for colleges: empowering and well-written words or a string of numbers and figures? While your authentic story is crucial to connecting with the right students, we can argue that the numbers can be just as impactful to an impressionable student as an inspiring turn of phrase.

We’ve found the best way to reach students is through a marriage of both mediums by presenting information in an attainable way via our CollegeXpress website. However, data means nothing if it isn’t displayed with the utmost accuracy. That’s why Wintergreen Orchard House, the data division of Carnegie Dartlet, is doing big things behind the scenes and holding your school’s data to the highest priority.

For the last 47 years, Wintergreen has been the frontrunner in data collection services. We conduct yearly surveys, collecting data from as many institutions as possible with our four editors working personally on every school’s profile with acute attention to detail.

Wintergreen wants to provide you with the keys to data accuracy and representation through our survey and show you how much better the data game can be than just putting numbers on a screen.

1. Standardization is your friend, not your enemy

When a student goes through the college search, they take schools they’re interested in and compare statistics, facts, and attributes. What happens when schools provide hard facts and figures in varying formats in comparison to each other? This information can be confusing to a student.

Wintergreen understands the need for data standardization and has made that our top priority. Our annual survey looks to take the most important data about every school in the country, clean it up, and showcase it in a digestible way for students, parents, counselors, and clients. Our second priority is making the process as easy for your institution as possible.

Our database does all the extra work that causes data collection to be tedious and makes it simple. It converts information into consumable figures that aid comparability. To make informed decisions, students weigh the benefits from one school against another, and being able to visualize those comparisons through graphs and broken-down data tables makes all the difference.

For example, one of the foundational requests in higher education data collection is enrollment figures. Whether it’s by gender, race, or full time versus part time, we present it in a way that students can connect with schools based on their needs.

A standard way colleges can provide data to outside organizations is through the Common Data Set (CDS). The CDS is a compilation of the most information frequently requested by students, parents, counselors, and data clients regarding higher education institutions. The CDS changes yearly to reflect informational demand, and any data points individuals feel should be changed, added, or removed can be discussed on their message boards. Wintergreen accepts the CDS and will even enter it in our database for your school to make the process easier!

2. What we collect: data with a side of personality

Although we encourage the use of the CDS, there’s a lot more to a Wintergreen survey than that. We want to know so much more about your institution than other data collection organizations. We want to provide as well rounded an image of your institution as possible, so the more data we have, the more solid the representation. With 47 survey sections and over 1,300 data points in our survey, we want to know everything.

  • Tell us all about freshman, transfer, and international students: Every kind of potential student deserves representation and data geared toward them.
  • Provide us all your financial aid figures based on domestic and international aid packages: Students want to know they have a fair shot at monetary help.
  • Give us ROTC programs, sports, and clubs: Students look for the best-fit communities and activities as well as strong academics.
  • Share information with us about your alumni: Showing where students have ended up after college is a great motivator for others in projecting a potential future for themselves.

The survey is extensive, but it’s worth it!

Wintergreen, much like the CDS, also researches what information is in high demand year-to-year to keep our data points as in tune with the times as possible. If we find enough requests for certain information to be represented, we’ll review the potential data point as a team and consider the benefits of adding it for our CollegeXpress users and data clients. But we’ll also address if it’s something that can be supplied by the majority of the schools answering our survey. For instance, with test-optional schools on the rise, we listened to demand, contemplated the benefits for the end user, and added the data point to reflect that. We take every request at more than face value, because schools shouldn’t have to provide data they feel doesn’t properly represent them.

3. Trust us: data handled with care

We review everything. When your institution submits a survey, it doesn’t get sent to cyberspace to be uploaded directly to CollegeXpress. We receive those 47 data tables and 1,300+ data points’ worth of information for every single school and go through each survey step-by-step to ensure that all given information:

  • Is set to standardization for equality
  • Doesn’t contradict information found elsewhere in the survey
  • Is clear, concise, and devoid of unnecessary information

Our database is made to compile and package your data in a way that makes the most sense and relates information like puzzles pieces. As soon as your data has been reviewed and approved by a Wintergreen editor, it’s immediately uploaded to CollegeXpress for students to see. There’s no waiting. Despite this quick turnaround time, we do not cut corners or chip away any significance of the information we receive. This means:

  • We avoid generalization in all possible places. Have a long list of majors you’ve recently added? We’ll list every major you give us instead of grouping like subjects into overarching categories.
  • Data is kept for up to two years. Even if you can’t compile data for us every year, your school’s profile is still active and full. Two-year-old information is more beneficial for potential students than no data at all.
  • We collect all data every year. Most data collection surveys focus on specific groups of data year-to-year and rotate them. What makes us unique is that we want everything every year.

With today’s students consistently looking for information online on demand, it’s more important than ever to be diligent with providing up-to-date data so your school isn’t only seen, but represented correctly. Hundreds of thousands of students, parents, and guidance counselors log on to CollegeXpress every year, and having the most-current data listed for your school means the difference between a click over to your website or not.


4. Where your data goes: benefits for all

Wintergreen Orchard House powers more than just CollegeXpress. We’ve developed strong relationships with an incredible array of data partners so we can share your information with other major websites with high-click traffic. Even if students, parents, and counselors aren’t finding you directly through us, they’ll still find you with us behind the scenes. The data you provide us is connected in a web of alternative ways of getting potential students to your authentic self.

When it comes to CollegeXpress, though, it’s important to know your data doesn’t just sit on a page on our website. Via blogs, articles, scholarships, lists, and college searches, there are many ways for students, parents, and counselors to connect to your institution. Even as just one school of 2,000 four-year institutions in our database—provided you have the data—you can’t get lost. In fact, you’re even more visible to our hundreds of thousands of users.

In addition to compiling your data on your profile, we also use that data to drive web traffic from other locations across CollegeXpress. We compile lists based on certain school characteristics and data points to push people toward the schools that support their needs and values. Your unique data is the key to finding the right students for your institution.

Ultimately, providing us your data is free advertising to the over 500,000 unique visitors who visit CollegeXpress each month. You’re marketing yourself with the facts and numbers to potential students and client organizations. Wintergreen and our clients are all working toward the common goal of making your voice heard above the masses to get your students to you.


Has your school participated in our yearly data survey? Reach out to us at, and we’ll let you know when we last received data or if we need anything to make sure you’re fully represented.

Click to learn more about Wintergreen Orchard House or CollegeXpress.

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