Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We hear you loud and clear: results of our survey

Cicadas are clicking, the halls of SAIS Bologna are empty of students, incoming scholars are taking a breath before coming here and prospective applicants are ... prospecting.

Time to take stock.

We've received your responses to our annual survey. There are some useful takeaways for us as we look to the next recruitment and admissions cycle.


We launched this Journal in December 2010. Our aim was to connect with prospective candidates so they could learn about SAIS Bologna while considering their options. We've tried to de-institutionalize our relationship with our readers, who start out as possible applicants and then often become candidates and in many cases end up as students.

Feedback and readership suggest it's been worth the effort.

Each of our 296 posts has generated an average of 344 page views. In the past month we passed the 100,000 page view mark. Our readership has grown -- natural as word gets around and new readers join the veterans.

About 30% of our readers are based in the United States. Seven of the top 10 countries ranked by readership are in Europe; South Korea is 8th and India 10th.

Here are the three most viewed posts since we launched:

The Analytical Essay (Nov 16, 2011)
The Statement of Purpose (Oct 19, 2011)
Seeing How You Think (Feb 21, 2011)

If we needed proof that our readers are interested above all in learning about the nitty-gritty of the application process, we have it in those readership statistics.

The hearty appetite for information on admissions procedures is borne out in the ...


Respondents were asked to rank what they found most useful about the Journal. As in last year's survey, readers selected "information about admissions procedures".

Readers also want "an inside look at SAIS Bologna" and "views of Bologna and Italy". And they like to keep in touch with SAIS Bologna.

We try to meet this demand with a mixture of posts: entries on procedures; interviews with students, faculty and alumni; photographs and video; examples of student work and activities.

If we go off track, we trust our readers will set us straight with a comment at the end of a post or an email to

We asked respondents how often they read the Journal. The answers were in line with those from last year: most check the Journal at least once a week; about 90% read it at least several times a month.

During the meat of the year we post three times a week -- which we think puts supply in line with demand. But if you think we post too much or not enough, feel free to tell us.

A couple of answers surprised us, perhaps because we were thinking the digital revolution has progressed farther than it has.

More than 9 of 10 readers still call up the Journal on their computer, with a small minority using mobile devices. And most use a browser bookmark or a search engine to find the posts, with only a minority subscribing to email or RSS alerts.

We may be outnumbered but would still urge regular readers to use the email alert system by submitting their email addresses via this function on the Journal's home page:

Finally, we are grateful to those who took the time to submit their thoughts on the Journal.

"I really like the personal style of the blog," wrote one respondent. "I really like to see that you put an effort into keeping everyone up to date," said another.

Hear, hear.

What could be improved?

1. "I think you could use a redesign," wrote one participant in the survey.

Are there any incoming students out there who would care to help us? We'd love to involve you.

2. We can improve navigation around the Journal and also make it easier to post comments and ask questions -- in other words, increase the interactivity. A very good point.

3. We should provide more information on what alumni are doing and about SAIS DC.

Here's a chance to make a plug for the blog managed by our counterparts in SAIS DC. It's called "Slice of SAIS" -- a much catchier name than ours!

Nelson Graves

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