Students are pursuing higher education with career outcomes in mind, and many begin their college journey with the goal of landing a job by graduation.
But only 34% of current students strongly agree that they will graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the job market.
That’s one finding from a report by Gallup and Strada Education Network. The researchers surveyed more than 32,000 undergraduates enrolled at 42 four-year universities.
Researchers found that six key experiences effect how confident students feel about their job prospects:
1. A professor who makes them excited to learn;
2. Faculty who care about them as individuals;
3. A mentor who pushes them to reach their goals;
4: Working on a long-term project that took a semester or more to complete;
5. Having a job or internship related to classroom lessons; and
6. Being extremely engaged in extracurricular activities and groups.
The key experiences fall into two major buckets: supportive relationships and experiential learning. Research has shown that mentors and experiential learning opportunities can help students feel supported, challenged academically, or satisfied with their degree.
But just 2% of students strongly agree that they have had all six experiences. Of those students, 76% are confident they’ll graduate with the skills needed for job market success. But among the 23% who say they have had none of these experiences, only 12% are confident about their future on the job market.
In particular, students may have trouble connecting with faculty on a personal level, writes Steve Crabtree for Gallup. While a relatively high number of respondents say they have a professor who makes them excited to learn (57%), only a quarter say their professors care about them as people (27%) and that they have a mentor who encourages them (25%).
The most common type of experiential learning was internships, but still less than half (40%) of respondents say they’ve had an internship related to their classes. Only 24% have worked on a long-term project and 18% say they are “extremely active” in extracurriculars. Predictably, seniors are more likely to have had experiential learning opportunities than first-year students, Crabtree adds.
Based on these results, colleges and universities should invest in helping students find mentors and have engaging, experiential learning opportunities, he recommends. Campus leaders can establish formal student-faculty mentorship programs and incentivize faculty to build relationships with their students, he suggests (Crabtree, Gallup, 1/22).