A Gallup poll released this week suggests that job and life satisfaction after college may hinge on often-overlooked factors.
For college graduates surveyed, key factors for being engaged at work and overall well-being in life included how engaged the student was with faculty and how much they integrated their career aspirations into their school work. What didn't matter, apparently, was the selectivity of the school.
"The thing that I think that is of particular value of this survey is that it is looking at outcomes of college that are different from the outcomes that we typically look at—like did you get a job, what is your salary, and those kinds of things," Harold V. Hartley III, senior vice president at the Council of Independent Colleges, told the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The report found that students who had a professor they felt cared about them as a person were twice as likely to be engaged in the workplace. Students who were very active in extracurricular activities also excelled, as well as those who had "worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete."
The report also found that being engaged at work translated into overall well being. Those who reported high levels of workplace engagement were 4.6 times as likely to thrive in all areas of well-being.
"Those percentages did not vary based on whether the grads went to a fancy name-brand school or a regional state college, one of the top 100 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings or one of the bottom 100. A slight edge did go to those who attended campuses with more than 10,000 students, while for-profit college graduates saw worse outcomes," observed NPR in its report on the study.
And Businessweek noted that "the larger the student-debt load, the less likely a person was to score highly for overall well-being — which sounds like common sense, as well as a potential argument against attending an elite private school if it means borrowing to pay tuition."
The results, Gallup noted in its report, have implications for students choosing colleges, for employers picking graduates from those colleges and for colleges deciding how to best structure their student experience.
"The data in this study suggest that, as far as future worker engagement and well-being are concerned, the answers could lie as much in thinking about aspects that last longer than the selectivity of an institution or any of the traditional measures of college," the researchers wrote. "Instead, the answers may lie in what students are doing in college and how they are experiencing it. Those elements — more than many others measured — have a profound relationship to a graduate's life and career. Yet too few are experiencing them."