Chart: The “Big 6” of Post-College Outcomes
This data set comes from an incredibly interesting survey of 30,000 graduates done by the pollsters at Gallup. Instead of simply looking at earnings, they dug a little deeper to determine how well off college graduates report faring in terms of a) meaningful engagement in their work, b) the “5 elements” of well-being (purpose, social, financial, community, and physical), c) on-time graduation, and d) preparedness for the workplace. These are the sorts of things college students hope to achieve from the higher education experience, so how do graduates actually fare?
The Gallup folks found very little correlation between degree attainment, per se, and these indicators of real world success. In fact, fully 25% of the graduates surveyed failed to thrive in life and career at any meaningful level. However, they did find a very high correlation between certain experiences in college and post-college well-being. As it turns out, if students had meaningfully participated any of the “Big Six” factors they enjoyed better outcomes, and as participation increased so did success. If a student had all six under their belt, they reported much higher satisfaction with both the college experience and their post-college situation.
In particular, the Big Six factors that make or break graduate outcomes are:
- A professor who made them excited about learning
- Professors who cared about them as a person
- A mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams
- Work on a long-term project
- A job or internship where they applied what they were learning
- “Extreme” involvement in extra-curricular activities
I would encourage you to read through the Gallup article which spells all of this out as it is most enlightening. The correlation between participation in any of the Big Six elements and eventual outcomes is rather linear. We see it most clearly in the reported preparation for life, but all of charts follow the same basic trend:
Note that these factors have very little to do with the direct expense of college. Any two kids can attend the same school, at the same price, and achieve completely different outcomes. These experiences are free to all but largely up to the student to seek out.
Turns out, post-college returns have less to do with money spent than they do with good, old-fashioned initiative. In order to get bang for your buck, be sure to seek out opportunities to participate in Big Six activities once on campus.