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Workforce Readiness

6 College Experiences that Spell Confidence in Job Outlook

The share of current students who expect to graduate with the skills and knowledge required to succeed in the job market goes up with the greater the number of specific experiences they have during their college years.

That finding came out of a survey of 32,000 U.S. undergraduates undertaken by polling company Gallup and Strada Education Network, a nonprofit that focuses on setting up pathways between college and career.

What are those experiences? Three pertain to mentoring support and three have to do with experiential activities:

  1. Students believe they have professors who care about them as people;
  2. They have at least one instructor who gets them excited about learning;
  3. They have a mentor within the school who pushes them to pursue their goals and dreams;
  4. They've had an internship or job that enables them to try out their learning;
  5. They've taken on a long-term project that required at least a semester to finish; and
  6. They're especially active in extracurricular activities and organizations.

Those students who have reported having none of these experiences (23 percent of the total number of respondents) were least likely to report "strong" agreement with the statement that they would graduate with the skills they needed to succeed in the job market; just 12 percent of these individuals strongly agreed. Among the 26 percent of students who said they'd had at least one of those experiences, the share of students who were confident about their future job success nearly doubled to 23 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, among the 2 percent of students who said they'd had all six experiences, confidence peaked at 76 percent.

Just four in 10 students said they'd had an internship or job that could supplement their classroom learning; and the same share said they've worked on long-term projects. The further along students were in their college career, the more likely they were to have experienced either of these. While 60 percent of seniors said they'd had an internship or job enabling them to apply what they learned, just 15 percent of freshmen said the same. Likewise with projects: While 39 percent of seniors had been immersed in long-term projects, only 10 percent of freshmen have had that experience.

Researchers' recommendations: Set up mentoring programs, whether by ramping up faculty expectations or giving them incentives to encourage "supportive relationships" with students; and make sure those faculty have "career-relevant" discussions with students.

A report with more results is openly available on the Gallup website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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