There’s a lot that goes into preparing for accreditation, and you don’t want to miss a single step in the process. We’ve put together a checklist to help you keep track of every step involved in helping a program, department, or college at your institution of higher education to become accredited so you can stay organized and make sure you have everything covered from the beginning to end.
Accreditation liaison calendar
Accredited institutions need to stay on top of accreditation requirements throughout the year. Here are the main ones to have on your calendar:
- Self-study evaluation and visit: This needs to be completed five years after the first accreditation, and every ten years after that.
- Periodic Review Report: This is a five-year interim report that must be completed between self-studies.
- Annual institutional profile: Check with your institution to determine when this is due.
24 months ahead of accreditation visit
The accreditation process takes a few years. Advise the department, program, or college seeking accreditation to start working on these items at least 24 months before they plan to become accredited to make sure you have enough time to fulfill your obligations so the accreditation process can run as smoothly as possible.
- Allocate money in budget for accreditation team and additional resources needed for accreditation process.
- Identify an accreditation team.
- IE officers/accreditation liaisons
- Committee chair
- Conduct a self-assessment.
- Survey students at the institution.
- Survey faculty and staff at the institution.
- Follow accreditation agency’s guidelines to determine what else is needed to conduct a thorough self-assessment.
- Identify key areas for improvement based on self-assessment.
- Identify key “must have” areas of improvement.
- Identify key “high priority” areas of improvement.
- Identify “other” areas of improvement that are not as critical as the other two areas. These are things that support other areas of improvement.
18-24 months ahead of accreditation visit
Communication is key during this time period to make sure you’re planning appropriately and adhering to the agency’s standards and guidelines. Stay on top of the accreditation process with regular meetings/check-ins between the accreditation team and the department, program, or college seeking accreditation.
- Schedule a meeting with other necessary parties, including the school dean, other IE staff, and, in some cases, a department chair.
- Review timeline and checklist with accreditation agency.
- Confirm timeline/checklist in writing to ensure you are on the same page as the accreditation agency.
- Use the accreditation agency’s timeline/checklist as your main calendar.
- Sync calendars of all accreditation committee members and other necessary parties to ensure nobody misses an important meeting, visit, or deadline.
- Review accreditation agency’s policy on site-visit and submit application, if required by the accreditation agency.
- Begin planning your action plan, which will be written and submitted to the accreditation agency. Accreditation agencies can vary on what they need, but here are some typical things you’ll likely need to include:
- Information from self-assessment on key areas to improve
- Coordination with accreditation agency on deadlines for documents, any necessary site visits, meetings and other assessments
- A calendar that includes all deadlines and scheduled monthly meetings to check-in on progress
12 months before anticipated accreditation visit
The following items must be completed 6-12 months before your accreditation visit, though some can be done even earlier:
- Schedule bi-monthly progress and update meetings with department or school seeking accreditation
- Work with department to identify sources of evidence for upcoming self-study.
- Gather sources of evidence for upcoming self-study.
- Attend any required events, conferences, meetings, etc. for accreditation.
- Work with department as needed to draft self-study report.
- Advise on the inclusion of charts, graphs, and other graphics.
- Advise on attachments and appendices to be included.
6 months before accreditation visit
The most important element in the 6 months prior to the accreditation site visit is getting the self-study report submitted to the agency. Work closely with the department or school seeking accreditation to make sure this document is accurate, polished, well-written, and thorough.
- Review self-study report from department or school seeking accreditation at least 4 months before you plan to submit the report to the accreditation agency.
- Review self-study report for accuracy.
- Verify institutional data and sources.
- Verify that the self-study report adheres to the accreditation agency’s guidelines.
- Request changes from department or school at least 1 month before submitting to the accreditation agency.
3 months before accreditation visit
Setting up the site visit includes making sure the agenda is flawless and that all the right people are available for the duration of the site visit. Spend this time finalizing your site visit plans, and make sure your team is on the same page as the department or school that is seeking accreditation.
- Work with department, college, or program to create an agenda for the upcoming site-visit.
- Do a final review of your self-study report.
- Send self-study report to the accreditation agency.
- Work with department, college, or program to create a shareable digital folder or website where members from the accreditation agency’s site team can find site-visit documents, maps, and other information.
- Work with department, college, or program to set up a mock accreditation site-visit.
- Invite all necessary parties to attend.
- Prepare ahead of time with what questions will be asked, where you will visit on campus first, who will speak when, etc.
After submitting self-study
Once the self-study has been submitted, it’s time to confirm the finer details of the site visit while you wait for the self-study to be accepted.
- Finalize site-visit agenda with department, college, or program.
- Request talking points from department, college, or program at least 2 weeks before site visit.
- Make suggestions for what to add.
- Verify all information presented is accurate.
- Meet with department chair to discuss talking points at least 1 week before site visit.
After site visit
Even the best-prepared schools will have room for improvement after a site visit.
- Within a month of the site visit, submit a final version of the self-study to the agency that clarifies data and clears up any misunderstandings or inaccuracies.
- Include information on the accreditation agency’s decision on the program or department website and on internal documents.
No matter the outcome, your school or program is likely to have learned lot through the accreditation process and identified even better ways to provide education to its students.