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Higher Ed

Students Who Get Better Career Guidance Remember College More Fondly

LA Johnson/NPR
College happiness
LA Johnson/NPR

Of all of the departments universities cultivate, career services could be the most important.

A new survey of 11,483 college graduates, for the Gallup-Purdue Index, found graduates who reported "very helpful" campus career-services experiences were 5.8 times more likely to say their university prepared them for life after college, 3.4 times more likely to recommend their school and 2.6 times more likely to donate to their alma mater than graduates who found their campus career help "not at all helpful."

So who found career services helpful and who didn't? Those who studied humanities were the most likely to report disappointment — 22 percent said campus career-services were not helpful. That's compared to 4 percent of engineering students.

And in a breakdown by race, the survey found white students were the least likely to use these services — 50 percent, compared to 65 percent of black students and 64 percent of Asian students. White students were also the least likely to report the services they got were "very helpful."

Not surprisingly, the survey found that students who have high loan debt sought out career services in big numbers. But those deeply indebted students also reported very low levels of satisfaction with the services they received.

Brandon Busteed, executive director for Gallup's Education and Workforce Development, says all these findings should push universities to examine how they're offering career coaching. His advice: Start earlier.

"Why not have career-service advice and counseling during freshman orientation? Before they even arrive," says Busteed. "If it's the kind of thing you only visit your junior or senior year, that's probably not sufficient."

And while getting students to think about career options early, before they pick a major, is important, Busteed stresses, students need quality coaching to feel set up for success.

"It sounds simple but it's not necessarily what you majored in, it's not what institution you went to," he says. "It's whether or not you had high quality experiences."

The Gallup report ultimately found little difference in alumni attitudes between those who used campus career services overall and those who didn't. But for those graduates who felt their career-services experiences were high quality, and helpful to them after graduation, engagement with their alma mater was "dramatically" higher.