Survey-Taking Tips for College Students

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Taking paid surveys is a great way to earn some extra cash while studying at college. I’ve been taking surveys for a few years now while doing my studies and that extra cash really comes in handy to help pay for expensive textbooks and other school supplies. It’s also great to having some extra spending cash for other things like entertainment and food. If you’re a member of several good-paying survey panels, it all really adds up.

However, sometimes it can be a challenge to juggle both your studies and survey-taking. Having done this for a few years now, I’ve learned some important tips and techniques along the way and thought I would share those with you. Many of these tips can apply to anyone just starting out taking surveys, not just college students, but they are especially relevant to students who are trying to balance their time between studies and surveys.

Tip #1 – Create a “surveys-only” e-mail address.

First and foremost, to be more organized and prevent any confusion, I HIGHLY recommend creating a separate e-mail address for only survey-related e-mails. This should be done before signing up with any panels because you want to use only that e-mail address for those survey companies. I would recommend using a free e-mail service such as Gmail or Yahoo for this. I use Gmail and have not had any issues.  For myself, I have four separate e-mail accounts (personal, college, surveys, and junk). It really helps to keep you organized.

Tip #2 – Sign up with as many survey panels as possible.

To get the most out of the survey-taking experience and to find out which panels work best for you, sign up with as many survey panels as you can when you first start out, especially the most popular ones. It can be overwhelming at first, but it gives you the best results. Check out the many survey panel reviews on They only list the legitimate survey panels on their website, so you know you won’t be in danger of getting scammed (there are many survey websites out there that are not safe and some that even require you to pay them to use their services, so you have to be careful when searching for survey panels to join through regular search engines). Also check out the top 10 lists on their blog to see which survey panels work best for people. The survey reviews and many blog articles are extremely helpful, especially when you’re first starting out.

Some survey panels may send out several survey invites a week, while others only send out a few a month or even less. It really depends on your demographic and what you qualify for. You can always drop out of the panels that don’t seem profitable for you. The important point to remember is to find the ones that work best for you and focus on those in the end.

Some top panels I recommend starting out with: Opinion Outpost, Global Test Market, Toluna, and MyView.

Tip #3 – Always fill out your profile surveys and remember to update them.

Filling out profile surveys can be very time-consuming depending on the survey panel, but it’s well worth it to do so. It’s best to do it right after signing up with a survey panel to get it out of the way. Filling out profiles increases the amount of surveys you will receive because the panel will know more about you. Also, remember to update your profiles at least once a year, especially if anything important changes in regards to your household or what school you are attending. I try to update my profiles every six months or so.

Tip #4 – Check your e-mail frequently, if you can.

With surveys, it’s always best to check your e-mail account as often as possible so you don’t miss any important opportunities. This can be difficult to do with a busy lifestyle and especially when you’re in college. My strategy is to check my e-mail whenever I get a break during the day. If I spot a high-paying survey, I’ll take it if I have time. If not, I’ll wait until later in the evening and hope the quota isn’t full. Some surveys fill up faster than others, especially if they pay a good deal. I find this to be especially true of survey panels like Opinion Outpost, Mindfield, and Toluna. I usually have several breaks during the day (especially during computer lab, since I’m a design major), so I check my e-mail often when I have the time.

Tip #5 – Set aside a time during each day to concentrate on taking surveys.

To better organize your time, set up a time during the day that is convenient for you and free of distractions to focus on taking surveys, especially if you usually can’t do surveys throughout the day. An hour or two should be sufficient depending on how long you’re willing to put into it. Since I’m in class the majority of the afternoon, I set aside a few hours in the evening to focus on surveys. I also sometimes take surveys during my breaks during the day, especially if I know the quota will be more than likely full by the evening when I get home or if the survey pays more than others.

Tip #6 – Keep your browser bookmarks organized and use tabs for quick access.

I keep a folder labeled “Surveys” in my bookmarks for Firefox and Internet Explorer. I put a bookmark for every company I take surveys from. I list the companies I use the most at the top of the list to make things easier for me. I also keep shortcuts to my most-used survey panels on the top of my browsers for easier access. I like to multitask a lot, so I use tabs to access several surveys at once in Internet Explorer. I have Internet Explorer configured so that it loads multiple “homepages,” which are the survey websites I use most like Toluna and SurveySpot. It just makes things easier and faster for me when I want to quickly access survey websites to find surveys.

Tip #7 – Always try to take surveys in Internet Explorer.

I’ve had more problems using Firefox and Safari for surveys, so I always make it a habit to use Internet Explorer. I rarely have problems using this browser for surveys. I honestly prefer Firefox for everything else, but for surveys, I always use Internet Explorer because it is the most highly-used browser and videos tend to load a lot better in it for me. I tend to have issues with loading survey videos in Firefox and Safari. Unfortunately, at my college, we mostly use Macs, so using Internet Explorer isn’t always an option, in which case I use Firefox and hope for the best.

Tip #8 – Keep records of surveys, especially high-paying ones.

I keep records of most surveys I take in a Word document. Since I take so many, I don’t keep a record of every single survey I take (I don’t really have the time to record each one), but I do record the ones that pay the most money in case I’m never paid.

Tip #9 – Keep a record of cash-outs.

I always keep a Word document of all my cash-outs with survey panels. I try to keep it simple and just list the survey company, what I cashed out for, and the date of the cash-out. I keep my screen shots of the cash-out in a separate folder, too. This goes a long way in keeping organized and is especially helpful in monitoring how long it takes for a survey company to pay me.

Tip #10 – Take screen shots to use as evidence in case you don’t get paid.

I always take screen shots if I encounter an error on a survey I’ve spent a long time on so I have evidence to help me get credited for it. I also take screen shots of my cash-outs, just in case I never get paid. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Tip #11 – Have a separate folder for survey-related papers sent by mail.

I keep a folder with the label “Surveys” on it in my room to store survey papers I get through the mail. Most of these relate to product tests I’ve received, but I also sometimes get mailed surveys (mainly through MySurvey). It really helps to stay organized and keep my survey papers and college papers separate from each other.

Tip #12 – Keep an eye out for Invokes and focus groups.

Invokes (interactive online focus groups) are typically found by searching surveys on popular survey sites such as Toluna and SurveySpot. They do not appear frequently and are therefore hard to come across. However, these are worth much more money than typical surveys and usually pay $20-40 for an hour or two of your time. Look for surveys that have “sweepstakes only” in the incentive field or that are really short and only offer a few points or cents. That is sometimes a clue. Sometimes you get lucky and it’s a short survey to see if you qualify for an Invoke. Invokes are scheduled for a specific date and time, so make sure you have time to participate. I usually get invited to at least one a month.
You can also try to qualify for focus groups that may be offered in your area. There are a lot of companies that specialize in conducting focus groups, some in person and some online (discussion forums are especially popular nowadays). However, it can be discouraging because qualifying can be very hard and quotas fill up fast. I’ve only qualified for a few in the few years I’ve been taking surveys. It’s definitely worth trying for, though, since these focus groups can pay anywhere from $50-300 or even more in some cases. Some target college students specifically, especially ones having to do with electronics and entertainment, I’ve noticed.

Tip #13 – Keep a look out for product tests.

I love product tests. It’s one of my favorite parts of doing surveys and really helps to save money as a college student because I don’t have to go to the store so often to pick up more shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, or other household items if I like what I’ve been sent to try. For product tests, I definitely recommend signing up with Synovate (I get the most product tests from them) and keeping an eye out for product test surveys on Opinion Outpost, SurveySpot, and Mindfield. It’s hard to know exactly when a survey will lead to a product test, but the more surveys you take, the more likely you’ll come across them.

Tip #14 – Check university websites for surveys.

For more academically-oriented surveys, I frequently check university websites for studies. Many are related to psychology or business. My favorite websites for this are the eLab at the Yale School of Management and the Stanford University Psych Paid Experiments website (there are a few online studies, but most are in person at Stanford). The downside is that many of these studies are prize-drawing only; not many pay you directly. Their prize drawings usually include an gift card of $10 or more, and the likelihood of winning the drawing depends on how many people they have participate in the study (usually 10 to 50 people, but sometimes more). I’ve won several drawings from the Yale eLab over the course of a year since signing up, and I usually take a few of their studies each week if I have some extra time. The studies are also pretty fun and interesting, so I really recommend trying them out if you have the chance.

If you’re a student (or even if you’re not) and have any other tips on taking surveys and managing your time, let me know! I’m curious to hear what works best for people and makes your survey-taking experience less stressful and more productive.

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Comments (4)

  • Deborah January 31, 2012 Reply
    What is the address for Mindfield surveys? and survey spot?
    • Hannah January 31, 2012 Reply
      You can find both survey panels listed on our full survey panel list, here:

      The direct link for the Mindfield Online page is
      and SurveySpot's page is

      However, since this post, SurveySpot is now owned by the same company as OpinionOutpost ( Both panels offer the exact same surveys, but OpinionOutpost pays more (sometimes twice as much) for the same survey. So, my personal recommendation would be to use OpinionOutpost INSTEAD of SurveySpot.
  • Joe the Admin April 09, 2011 Reply
    Yes we always recommend 5 to 1o survey panels for people that are just getting started. It allows you to focus on getting all of your profiles filled out, and not getting overwhelmed from the start. Of course our Top 10 is a good place to start since they represent some of the best panels as voted by other members. As Stephanie recommends, if you join the panels on our site you can be assured to be safe from scams, spam, etc. All of the panels on our site have been verified to be legitimate survey panels that incentives in the form of check, amazon, Paypal, or other forms of payment.

    Great article Stephanie. Lots of good advice here.
  • Lee New April 08, 2011 Reply
    Steph, great article and well-written! I would only take exception with one thing that you stated: Tip #2 – Sign up with as many survey panels as possible.

    I would recommend that those who are just starting out NOT sign up for every survey site they encounter as many are not legitimate and will spam you to death, or worse. I would sign up for 10-20 of those on GetPaidSurveys and try those out for a few months until you get the hang of what a legitimate survey site is like: no credit card necessary, no Gold, Silver and Platinum offers, paid in cash by check/PayPal or in Amazon gift cards, no prize/sweepstakes sites, etc.