Module Four – Hosting a Self-Study Preparation Visit

After attending the Self-Study Institute, one of the early steps in the self-study process is to schedule a Self-Study Preparation Visit to campus.  This visit is conducted by the Commission staff liaison to help prepare the institution to conduct a useful self-study and host a successful On-Site Evaluation Team Visit. The preparation visit is scheduled in ample time to assist the institution to become comfortable with the Standards for Accreditation and Commission expectations in preparation for developing the Self-Study Design, and so that work on the Self-Study Report and preparation for the Evaluation Team visit can begin in earnest.

The purpose of the visit is to:

  • learn more about the current status of the institution;
  • discuss the institutional priorities identified by the institution and find the most appropriate means of addressing them through the self-study process;
  • acquaint those who will have crucial roles in the self-study with the Commission’s expectations and available resources;
  • discuss and offer feedback on the institution’s draft Self-Study Design; and
  • otherwise assist with the institution’s preparations for self-study and peer review.

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The Pre-visit Conference Call (Module 4, Section 1)

Prior to the Self-Study Preparation Visit, the self-study co-chairs will schedule a conference call or Skype meeting with the Commission staff liaison to seek additional guidance early in the Self-Study Design development phase. During this phone/video conference, the institution should be prepared to discuss its initial thoughts about the approach to self-study, the intended outcomes, and the institutional priorities. Also, during this call, the timing and logistics of the Self-Study Preparation Visit will be discussed.

Submission of Self-Study Design to Commission Staff Liaison (Module 4, Section 2)

The draft Design is submitted by email to the institution’s Commission staff liaison at least two weeks in advance of the on-campus Self-Study Preparation Visit.

Visit of Commission Staff Liaison to the Institution (Module 4, Section 3)

The Self-Study Design is the primary focus of the Commission staff liaison’s discussions with the Steering Committee and other constituencies during the Self-Study Preparation Visit. Therefore, it is important that the Steering Committee start early developing the Self-Study Design.

The Steering Committee should prepare the campus so the visit can be most productive.  The Steering Committee members should be thoroughly familiar with the draft Self-Study Design so the feedback is meaningful for them.  Additionally, some preliminary information about the self-study process and Standards for Accreditation should be shared with the faculty, staff and students so they are aware of the purposes of the open session, and with the governing board prior to its meeting with the Commission staff liaison.

Suggested Agenda Items (Module 4, Section 4)

A draft agenda and travel details should be sent to the Commission staff liaison approximately two weeks before the visit. The following guidelines will assist you in organizing the timing, agenda, content, and participants for the Self-Study Preparation Visit. The bulleted items are examples of what may be covered by the Commission staff liaison.

President/Chief Executive Officer of Institution (30 minutes)

  • Discuss current status of institution and future plans
  • Discuss goals of self-study
  • Discuss characteristics of effective team/team chair
  • Answer questions about the accreditation process

Steering Committee (90 minutes)

  • Review and provide feedback on the Self-Study Design
  • Discuss Commission expectations
  • Answer questions about the accreditation process

Governing Board members (45-60 minutes)

  • Discuss the role of the governing board
  • Answer questions about the accreditation process

Open Session for faculty, staff, and students (60 minutes)

  • Explain the accreditation process
  • Discuss the role of faculty, staff, and students
  • Answer questions about the accreditation process

Exit Briefing with Steering Committee Co-chairs (30 minutes)

  • Summarize the day’s discussions and discuss next steps
  • Determine date for submission of the final draft of the Self-Study Design

Campus tours are not normally a part of the Self-Study Preparation Visit, and while meals may be provided during the day, it is suggested that these do not occur during the meeting with the Steering Committee.

Please note that the Commission staff liaison’s visit is intended solely to provide information and guidance.  The liaison is not serving as a peer evaluator, and the Commission will take no accreditation action as a result of the visit.

Acceptance of Self-Study Design (Module 4, Section 5)

After the visit, the Commission staff liaison will provide a written overview of the day’s meetings and feedback on the Design for the President, ALO, and Self-Study Co-Chairs. The Steering Committee will revise the Design, as appropriate, and re-submit it by an agreed upon date for acceptance by the Commission staff liaison.

Keys to Success (Module 4, Section 6)

  • Be sure to communicate with your Commission staff liaison and ask questions as needed.
  • More is not better! Think strategically about the quality and quantity of information provided in your draft Design.
  • Be sure to use the Self-Study Design as a planning tool throughout the process, and not just ‘once and done.’
  • Think carefully about relationships between institutional priorities, mission, and Commission Standards.
  • Be mindful of the Commission staff liaison’s day on your campus in relation to locations of meetings, timing of meetings, and travel logistics.
  • Take advantage of times your governing board will be on campus in planning the preparation visit.
  • Use the Self-Study Design Template to ensure that all required areas are adequately addressed.
  • Self-Study Preparation Visits are generally scheduled within 4 to 10 months of attending the Self-Study Institute. It is recommended that institutions desiring to host fall On-Site Evaluation Visits schedule their preparation visit within the first six months following the Institute.


Disclaimer: The material provided in this guide was developed to provide clarity for the self-study process. Commission Policy and Procedures will govern in the case of a conflict with this material. For any questions about an institution’s accreditation status or for additional information about MSCHE’s standards for accreditation, requirements of affiliation, policies, and procedures, you should contact MSCHE staff. This material is not intended as a substitute for professional advice from MSCHE staff and use of the material does not guarantee any specific accreditation outcome.