These three activities could help improve post-graduate outcomes

By Brandon Chinn

It’s an all too common story: Around the middle of senior year of college, students become overcome with a sudden, acute dread that the “real world” is imminent. Despite a hazy enthusiasm for post-college life, many are blanketed with fear—especially those students who took out student loans and are now expected to pay them back. They feel an intense pressure to get a job, and fast.

While some students wait until graduation is just a few weeks away, others have jobs lined up months before their peers start searching. And a recent EAB research study suggests that those students are at a big advantage. When a student starts thinking about post-college employment may have a material impact on whether they are gainfully employed for the first five years after graduation.

Learn what else our data scientists uncovered about what students can do to improve their post-college outcomes:

The post-graduate outcomes research project and methodology

As the public continues to question the value of college, post-graduate outcomes remain top of mind for students, parents, and administrators. However, this issue proves tricky to understand (and manage) for several reasons. First, there’s no uniform definition of a positive post-college outcome. For some it’s just a job, for others it’s a job that requires a bachelor’s degree or a position related to a students’ field of study. Second, there’s limited research on factors that are positively correlated with success after college.

At the request of many Student Success Collaborative members, EAB spent the last year researching which activities, experiences, and decisions increase graduates’ chances of gainful employment. We surveyed 6,000+ alumni from five member colleges and universities—mostly large public schools—to better understand student outcomes.

Since “post-graduate outcomes” doesn’t have a commonly accepted definition, our data scientists partnered with the five schools to develop an agreed upon definition, which we’re calling EAB’s Gainful Employment Score.

The Gainful Employment Score is a weighted benchmark accounting for four factors:

  1. Does a person have a job?
  2. Does that job require a bachelor’s degree?
  3. How does their salary compare to benchmarks?
  4. How satisfied are they with their jobs?

View more details of our methodology

We looked at 51 variables, removing those where we didn’t have full coverage across schools or a limited sample size. We organized them into six categories, such as student attributes, social experiences, academic performance and experience, work experience, and job search activities. While we looked at demographic variables, this post focuses on what we learned about factors within a student’s control.

Insight #1: The early bird…gets the job?

Turns out, the common senior-year instinct to panic about starting to search for jobs has some merit. Our analysis shows that students who began searching for employment 6-12 months prior to graduation had a 10% higher Gainful Employment Score compared to those who started later, while students who started more than a year out saw a 15% bump. Across the 50+ variables we analyzed, the timing of job search initiation was the most highly correlated with positive outcomes.


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