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10 Helpful IPEDS Data Prep Tips for Easy, Accurate Submission

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IPEDS Submission

By Earl Sires, Digital Content Marketer

It’s that time of year again: IPEDS reporting is starting up! Call us crazy, but it’s an exciting time for us here at Rapid Insight. We love finding more efficient ways to complete dense, laborious data submission requirements.

We work closely with keyholders across the country to gather, prepare, and submit data (on time, no less!) for their IPEDS surveys. Some of those keyholders are brand new to the process, while others have years of experience under their belts.

Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about making the IPEDS data submission process as quick and accurate as possible. We’d like to share that wisdom with you!

Here are ten tips for preparing and submitting your IPEDS data.

1. Get (and Stay) Educated!

New Keyholder Handbook for IPEDS Data Collection 2021 2022

If you’re a new keyholder, the official New Keyholder Handbook is a must-have. Visit the NCES website for the latest version.

After perusing the handbook, watch the “New to IPEDS?” video series from the Association of Institutional Research (AIR). AIR offers video training in the overall IPEDS data submissions process, specific surveys, and even specific roles.

For returning keyholders, AIR presents sessions on the current cycle’s changes to the IPEDS submission requirements. Additionally, AIR makes continuing education available with their Keyholder Efficiencies course.

If you prefer live training, AIR also offers free workshops. Visit the site for a schedule of upcoming IPEDS classes.

2. Take Notes on your Process

While the NCES tweaks IPEDS reporting requirements annually, much of the process you use to gather and submit your data can carry over from year to year. That’s why it’s valuable to start recording your process now, whether it’s your first cycle or your fortieth.

Create a document (in Word, OneNote, or another application) to reference during future IPEDS cycles, updating it each time you learn more about the process. Take note of your data sources, critical departmental contacts, and the resolution to any issues you run into along the way.

3. Connect Directly to your Data

If available, take advantage of the option to connect to relevant data in your Student Information System rather than working from an extract. A direct connection ensures that you’re working from up-to-date data, allowing for greater accuracy.

Additionally, connecting directly to the data means you don’t have to wait for I.T. to produce extracts or reports for you, allowing you to finish your IPEDS data prep faster.

4. Create a Repeatable Workflow

As noted above, the NCES makes changes to the IPEDS reporting requirements each year. However, the core information IPEDS seeks largely stays the same. As such, the procedures you create during this IPEDS cycle can be repurposed for your future submissions, too.

You’ll need to update your process to reflect the current cycle’s changes, but you’ll never have to start from scratch once you complete your first cycle.

Construct Users

That’s more than just a reassuring notion; it means that your experience starts to compound as soon as your second cycle! So once you make it through your first cycle, you’ll be in good shape going forward.

Additionally, other members of your team who contribute to IPEDS data submission will have a blueprint to work from, making collaboration easier.

This is particularly true if you use an automated data prep software like Construct, as you can easily share jobs with other team members and (literally) copy and paste your process from one cycle to the next, making necessary tweaks to match changed IPEDS requirements.

5. Check your data along the way (instead of only at the end)

There’s nothing worse than compiling all of your data only to realize that your report is inaccurate thanks to an error somewhere along the way. Poring back over your entire process to identify where the mistake can be painstaking and time-consuming.

How can you get ahead of this issue? By building mid-process data verification stops into your process.

For example, if you merge two data sources, it’s likely worth looking at the data immediately after the merge to ensure the result aligns with your expectations. If a once-over indicates that something is wrong, you can address it right away and move on.

6. Refer to subject matter experts

Checking the data yourself is crucial, but it’s equally important to get an expert opinion on the data if you want to avoid the need for post-submission corrections.

If you’re working on an IPEDS enrollment survey, ask someone from Enrollment Management to look at an export of the data to ensure that the numbers are on target.

Staff time is valuable, but even asking for a quick gut check from relevant staff will end up saving you time on the back end. It’s easier to catch and correct errors now than when you’re pressed for time up against a deadline (or worse, after submitting)!

7. Create an organized report before entering data

Once you collate, cleanse, and verify your data for accuracy, it’s time to enter it on the IPEDS website.

IPEDS Step 7 Create an organized report before entering data

If your reference document is disorganized and messy, you run a higher risk of entering information incorrectly. This is especially true when you consider that you’ll need to click through numerous pages on the IPEDS site, entering data in dozens of fields.

Before starting data entry, create a clean document that quickly surfaces the data you need to enter.

To learn how one of our customers built such a report, read this case study.

Some keyholders prefer to enter the data manually as one final accuracy check, but if you prefer a more efficient submission method, check out the next tip!

8. Use the upload feature to submit your data faster

Rather than manually entering information into each box on the IPEDS form, you can generate a fixed-width file for instant upload.

You’ll need to follow the guidelines on the IPEDS submission page, but the upload process can save lots of time once you have a good process in place for creating a file that fits IPEDS’s specifications. 

Are you interested in building an automated workflow to handle the upload formatting process for you? Watch this on-demand video to learn more!

9. Work with data prep experts

As we mentioned at the top of this post, we’ve gained a great deal of experience helping our users prep their data for IPEDS reports (and a vast array of other institutional reports).

You get free, unlimited access to our experienced analyst support team when you’re a Rapid Insight customer. We can help you through all stages of the IPEDS data preparation and submission process, sharing wisdom and guidance along the way at whatever level you need it.

Many users describe working with our support analysts as “having an extra member on the team.” For keyholders who work alone or on a small team, this extra assistance is invaluable. Some of our users only need a sounding board or another set of eyes to check over their work, while others need in-depth aid in connecting to their data and preparing it for submission.

Whatever you need to complete your IPEDS data prep and submission on time, we’re here to help you with it!

10. Automate the IPEDS submission process

Along with our expert support, we offer software that makes the entire IPEDS data preparation process vastly more manageable.

Our data preparation product, Construct, ticks all the boxes for easier IPEDS data prep:

  • Easy-to-build repeatable workflows that you can update quickly for each IPEDS cycle
  • Direct connection to your Student Information System
  • Data verification at any point in the process
  • Annotations for record-keeping and future reference
  • Clean reports for manual IPEDS data entry OR automated formatting for IPEDS direct submission
  • Unlimited access to our experienced support team


Want to learn more about how Rapid Insight makes IPEDS reporting easier? 

Click the button below for a free trial of our software (and free guidance from our analyst support team)!

Get A Free Analyst-Assisted Trial of Construct!

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