Well-known benefits of going to college include independence, community, intellectual growth, a sense of self-discovery. Not high among those, according to a new survey of US college students: getting prepared for working life.
In an online survey of 1,360 US college students in March and April of 2016, the education company McGraw-Hill and the analytics firm Hanover Research found that only four out of every 10 seniors graduating in the class of 2016 feel their college experience has helped them get ready for a career, and that figure is slightly lower for students across all years. (Granted, the latter includes brand-new freshmen, who tend to be relatively clueless about their career ambitions.) This was the organizations’ third annual survey of students’ workplace readiness, and the findings are very similar to those of last year.
Worst off, as one might suspect, are those who chose to study less practical or vocation-focused subjects—like history or English. While the level of preparedness among students majoring in business- or science-related fields is at the overall average, the same can’t be said of arts and humanities students. Under a third of those students say they feel “very prepared” or “somewhat prepared” for working life, and nearly one on five report feeling entirely unequipped:
Students, who self-reported their responses in McGraw’s study, may underestimate their preparedness because they lack confidence or a sufficient understanding of what employers want. But previous research bears out their pessimism: Only about a fifth of graduates manage to snag jobs right out of college, and many employers are dissatisfied with the skills new grads bring.
There are certainly things that colleges can do to help: partner with companies to offer more professional experiences, give students more career training, and amplify alumni networking opportunities, for example.
And it’s not that students are being overly picky about their work—with all the loan debt that many carry, they’re taking what they can get. In terms of opportunities, at least, things are looking up for this year’s graduates.