We closed Part I by asking
- how students who are about to apply to colleges could possibly know how they’re going to feel – after they graduate from college – about their engagement in their employment and their assessments of their well-being, including their satisfaction with their relationships, their physical health, their communities, their economic situations, and their senses of purpose.
- what does that have to do with the colleges that they attend.
and we promised answers to both of those questions.
Okay, here are the answers:
- They can’t.
- A lot.
No, we’re not going to leave you “hanging there,” because – thanks to the Gallup-Purdue Index – we know for a large group of students the things that occurred to them while they were in college that made significant differences in their lives after they graduated. And that means that if students can seek out schools at which those things are more likely to occur – and do the things needed to make those things occur when they’re in school – they, too, could reap similar benefits.
The Gallup-Purdue Index is joint project of Gallup and Purdue University, and its 2013 stated goal was “to conduct the largest representative study of college graduates in United States history.” Initially, 30,000 graduates were surveyed, but that’s now up to 60,000.
So what are the things that occurred to those students while they were in college that made significant differences in their lives after they graduated? Here’s a clue: “what” mattered a lot more than did “where.”
Based on their reported satisfactions with their relationships, their physical health, their communities, their economic situations, and their senses of purpose, here’s how the “where” played out for the students who reported themselves to be thriving in all five areas (as a percentage of all students surveyed):
|Graduated from colleges ranked among the top 50 national universities by US N&W Report||11%|
|Graduated from colleges ranked among the top 50 liberal arts colleges||13%|
|Graduated from a public college||10%|
|Graduated from a private, non-profit college||11%|
Only for-profit schools did significantly worse than the above.
Now here’s the “what”:
- Graduates reported greater senses of well-being if they did any one of these things while they were in college, and the more of them they did, the greater their senses of well-being were:
- developed a relationship with a mentor
- participated in or did a project that lasted a semester or more
- had a job or internship that was directly connected to their chosen field
- deeply involved themselves in a campus organization or activity (not a little involved in a number of them)
So as you’re looking into colleges, remember what’s really most important, and — unless you’re intent on being unhappy — what’s really most important are the opportunities schools offer you to make those four things happen while you’re there.
One note of caution before we close: Gallup-Purdue data make it clear that heavy debt loads after graduation are every bit the bummer that you might imagine they would be.