Colleges and universities are starting a new trend as they combine academic advising with career counseling to decrease student anxieties about finding desirable employment after graduation.
A new analysis from EAB shows that for every 100 students who begin working toward a bachelor’s degree, just 35 will graduate and work in a position requiring a college degree by the age of 27.
Universities want a positive reputation for delivering a good return on education, says Ed Venit, EAB’s managing director. Part of that return on education includes students achieving desirable outcomes—jobs they wouldn’t get if they didn’t have a four-year degree. Institutions are rethinking the ways they prepare students for careers.
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“A clear upward trend has been the expansion of the idea of what success is,” Venit says. “Schools want students to have better post-graduation outcomes; universities want students to get the jobs they seek.”
Some schools, including Clark University (Mass.) and James Madison University (Va.), are integrating academic advising and career counseling and extending career preparation across students’ college experiences. These new hybrid advising roles fill a gap between students’ courses and desired career outcomes. EAB’s report, “Integrating Academic and Career Development,” details those practices.
Hybrid advising roles help students choose the classes, majors, and extracurricular opportunities that will lead them to the jobs they ultimately want. When these new advisers see weak alignment between students’ chosen majors and their desired careers, they can help students select alternative majors or professional ambitions. They also can help students link mismatched majors and careers, such as helping a creative writing major who wants to work in business find a banking internship.
Clark University combined several support teams to help students develop and articulate one consistent narrative about their academic and extracurricular choices. Instead of talking to several specialized advisers about their major, minor, internship, study abroad, career goals, and academic support needs, Clark students have one conversation with a cross-functional adviser.
By offering students holistic advice, in one year Clark doubled the number of times students sought support: In 2013–2014, the school had just under 5,000 interactions with students; in 2014–2015, advisers interacted with students more than 10,000 times. Within six months of graduation, 97 percent of Clark alumni are working, in graduate school, or completing a year of service.
“We at Clark find that student decision-making around academics and careers is increasingly complex and interconnected,” says Michelle Bata, associate dean and director of the university’s LEEP Center.
The university strives to help students make the best decision when weighing career experiences, classes, and other responsibilities.
“If a student is considering a summer internship, they’re also weighing that decision against taking summer courses and finding funding to support the internship,” Bata adds. “Having advisers who are trained to address all of these issues and take a student-centered approach with their guidance is not only a better service model, but also teaches students how to ask for help, how to make sense of disparate pieces of information, and how to make decisions. It’s an approach that can set students up for success beyond the initial meeting.”
James Madison University also merged its academic and career counseling departments to create clearer alignment between students’ studies and career ambitions. A cross-trained adviser helps students outline their interests, skills, values, and goals and plan personalized academic and career paths.
And to further enhance students’ career preparation from the first day of school, the university added a career-readiness coordinator position to make sure all students, from freshmen through seniors, are aware of the skills they need to secure the jobs they want and develop those skills during their time at James Madison, through traditional courses, experiential learning, and internships. The approach has been successful: For the class of 2016, 95 percent of students were employed, in graduate school, or in some other career-related endeavor, such as an internship, within six months of graduation.
“It’s so important that students start hearing from the first year what they need to learn to get a job and how they can develop those skills on campus or off,” says Mary Morsch, the university’s director of Career and Academic Planning. “We want students to capitalize on opportunities early on, instead of waiting until senior year.”