Module Four – Hosting a Self-Study Preparation Visit

After attending the Self-Study Institute (SSI), one of the early steps in the self-study process is to host a Self-Study Preparation Visit to campus. This visit is conducted by the Vice President liaison to help prepare the institution to conduct a useful self-study and host a successful 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 and prepare a complete draft of the Self-Study Design (SSD), 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 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 meeting with the Vice President for Institutional Field Relations (VPIFR) to seek additional guidance early in the SSD development phase.

During this video conference, the institution should be prepared to discuss the following:

  • institutional priorities and process followed for identification of same;
  • proposed intended outcomes for self-study;
  • approach to self-study;
  • expected composition of the Steering Committee, including names and titles; and
  • the timing, logistics, and agenda for the Self-Study Preparation Visit.

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

The draft Self-Study 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. The draft should be complete and include the information for all the SSD template sections. The SSD draft will not become part of the official record for the institution. It is intended only for review and feedback by the VPIFR.

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

Self-Study Preparation Visits are generally scheduled within three to nine months of attending the SSI. It is recommended that institutions desiring to host fall Evaluation Visits schedule their preparation visit within the first four months following the SSI.

The Self-Study Design is the primary focus of the VPIFR discussions with the Steering Committee and other constituencies during the Self-Study Preparation Visit.

The Steering Committee should prepare the institution so the visit can be most productive. All members of the Steering Committee should be thoroughly familiar with the draft SSD, so the feedback is meaningful for them. Additionally, some preliminary information should be shared with the following constituency groups:

  • Faculty, staff, and students – information about the self-study process, the identified institutional priorities, the Standards for Accreditation, and the purposes of the open session.
  • Governing Board – information about the self-study process, the identified institutional priorities, and the Standards for Accreditation, particularly Standards I and VII, and the Related Entities Policy, if applicable.

A draft agenda and travel details should be sent to the VPIFR approximately two weeks before the visit. The VPIFR will discuss and finalize the agenda with the Steering Committee Co-Chairs and the Accreditation Liaison Officer (ALO).

Suggested Agenda Items (Module 4, Section 4)

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 is regularly discussed by the Vice President liaison liaison.

President/Chief Executive Officer of Institution (30 minutes)

  • Discuss current status of institution and future plans
  • Discuss institutional priorities to be addressed during Self-Study
  • Discuss proposed Self-Study outcomes
  • Discuss desired characteristics of Evaluation Team Chair
  • Answer questions about the accreditation process

Steering Committee (90 minutes)

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

Governing Board members (45-60 minutes)

  • Discuss the Standard VII expectations for the role of the governing board in institutional governance
  • Discuss the role of the governing board in the accreditation process, specifically involvement in the Team Chair’s Preliminary Visit and the Evaluation Team Visit
  • Discuss the expectations for providing data and documentation to the Working Groups addressing Standards I and VII
  • Discuss the Related Entities Policy, if appropriate
  • 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 in the accreditation process, specifically involvement in the Team Chair’s Preliminary Visit and the Evaluation Team Visit
  • 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 deadline 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 the Vice President liaison visit is intended solely to provide information and guidance. The Vice President 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 VPIFR will provide a written summary of the feedback on the SSD for the President, ALO, and Self-Study Co-Chairs. The Steering Committee will revise the SSD, as appropriate, and re-submit it by an agreed upon date. The VPIFR accepts the SSD on behalf of the Commission and forwards it to appropriate Commission Accreditation Services staff for processing and uploading to the institution’s record.

While the SSD is accepted as a whole, it is important to note that the institution may need to revise certain sections of it as the Self-Study work progresses. However, the identified institutional priorities should remain unchanged. The accepted SSD should be shared and discussed with the Team Chair once that person is identified.

Keys to Success (Module 4, Section 6)

SSI light bulb

  • Communicate with your Commission staff liaison and ask questions as needed.
  • More is not always better! Think strategically about the quality and quantity of information provided in your draft SSD.
  • Be sure to use the SSD as a planning tool throughout the process, and not just “once and done.”
  • Clearly map the relationships between institutional priorities, mission, and Commission Standards.
  • If not virtual, 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 the times your governing board is already scheduled to be on campus in planning the SSPV.
  • Use the Self-Study Design Template to ensure that all required areas are addressed.

Resource Toolbox (Module 4, Section 7)

The following resources are available for preparing for and hosting the Self-Study Preparation Visit.

Self-Study Preparation Visit Template Tentative Agenda Sample
Required Meetings Time
Brief Meeting with ALO and Co-chair(s) 8:45-9:00 a.m.
President 9:00-9:30 a.m.
Steering Committee 9:45-11:15 a.m.
Governing Board Members 1:00 – 1:45 p.m.
Open Session for Staff, Faculty & Students 2:00-3:00 p.m.
Exit Session with ALO & Co-Chairs 3:15-3:45 p.m.

The institution will make arrangements for these sessions either on campus or virtual sessions using an appropriate platform (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) suited for the number of expected attendees.

You may find that Module 4, Section 4 of the MSCHE Self-Study Guide is particularly helpful in setting up and preparing for these meetings.  Please contact your Vice President for Institutional Field Relations with meeting invitations for the respective sessions at least one week in advance.


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.