• Bria Wearren

Are You Prepared For Life After Graduation?

For many college students, the day when they walk across the stage to receive their diploma couldn’t come sooner. But is getting the diploma the only goal that college students should set their sights on? Sure, at first the diploma is the big picture but as you progress in your college stint, you start to realize that the degree is a piece of the puzzle you need and you find the other pieces along the way such as making a plan for after college, whether it’s going on and getting more education or jumping straight into a career. With that in mind, it got me thinking, how well are we being prepared for life post graduation? How do senior and juniors feel about the process so far with being prepared for the day after graduation?

In the 2018 Future Workforce Survey conducted annually by McGraw-Hill Education in conjunction with MMR Research Associates, they found that only 4 out of 10 students, 41% of the students surveyed, felt prepared or very prepared for careers for after school. McGraw Hill cited that this is a significant increase compared to the 2017 survey that reported only 29% of students felt prepared or very prepared for careers after school. Their key findings report that when taking a look at different subgroups, a larger portion of men (50%) found to be more confident for careers after school than women (36%). This really makes you wonder about what is actually going on in college classrooms and why aren’t more students feeling ready to pursue careers out of college if they spent at least 4 years preparing for it.

Each year Marymount conducts their own survey among the graduation class gauging them about their experience here at Marymount . The survey covers a wide range of topics such as service to the community, involvement, overall feel of the campus and much more including preparedness for life after college. When asked the following question, “Please indicate how well you believe your education prepared you to find a job,” 65% of the students answered good or excellent. Of all the other questions in this section the confidence in preparedness ranked relatively low among the other questions. See figure below.

When asked about the overall effectiveness of Career Prep/Internships, graduating students felt that the University was lacking in resources or ways that would help students find and be placed into internships. This is extremely important because having an internship is required from Marymount to graduate. Senior Politics major Carla Clavell had to fend for herself when looking for her internships, citing that her advisor wasn’t much help. During her time at Marymount she was able to obtain four internships on her own. She said that it was through these internships that made her feel well prepared to take on any job and help her prepare for the 9 to 5 life. Stephanie Downing, who is a Criminal Justice major also had to find the two federal internships on her own. First year advisors drill into freshman students that they can utilize Jobs4Saints to look for internships, but after digging through the postings, there is hardly anything that looks promising. Like past students, many current students believe that there needs to be a better system in place for finding internships, especially since it’s a requirement. Marymount students aren’t alone in this feeling that they weren’t given as many resources for internships as they would have liked. According to the 2018 Future Workforce Survey, 51% of students felt that having more access to internships would have help with the post graduation preparedness. It is safe to say that Marymount students and other are definitely in agreeance with what they need to really move in the right direction with career preparedness.

Every student at Marymount has an advisor, whether it’s first year or the one you will have until graduation. The university encourages us to form a relationship with them and use them as a resource for whatever we need. With that being said, how big of a role do advisors play in preparation for life post graduation? Graduating students noted that the advising department needs improvement and that they should have an in depth understanding of the major. Some example responses that the survey list were quite negative and spoke to the lack of advising put the student at a disadvantage. In an article written by Ashley A. Smith, she cites a report released by the Center for Community College Student Engagement that studies the effect of advising on students and their college goals. CCSE found that the more creative, frequent and in-depth the advising is, the better outcomes there will be for the students. Even though this was a report put out for community college, this really can and does apply to any educational institution. Students aren’t necessarily looking for a pat on the back but more so guidance, that the academic choices they are making will help benefit them. Clavell said that her advisor rarely played a role in her post graduation preparedness other than just approving classes. Fortunately this didn’t hinder her for going and finding internships for herself. Same for Downing, but she felt that she couldn’t go to her advisor, sensing that she might have been overwhelmed. Junior Digital Media student Maggie Cheng fortunately has had a different experience with her advisor. She said that her advisor has been very helpful with going over the classes she needs to take to ensure that she graduates on time. Even though there were specific statements made about how the advising department can be improved some of what was called out scored higher than other things in the survey. For example, 77% of students agreed that their advisers were knowledge about their degree program, but when it came to being prepared for life post graduation, about 61% of graduates agreed that advisors explored career options with them, causing it to rank last. See figure below.

Marymount has it’s very own career center on site called Center for Career Services located in the Rowley courtyard. There they can help students with a variety of things such as resume workshops, professional networking, help navigating the Jobs4Saints. What’s interesting is that on the 2018 Future Workforce Survey, only about 20% of students said that career centers were helpful in preparing students for life after graduation. Of all the students I interviewed, not one mentioned the career center with helping them prepare for post graduation life. On the university’s Graduating Student Survey, there was no direct mention of the Center for Career Services but it did rank fairly low. About only 55% of students answered that that were satisfied or very satisfied with the career and counseling and job search services. See figure below.

That is discouraging to hear, especially coming from a group are students who are about to head into the professional world, not fully armed with the tools they need to succeed in their next venture. If the students are go-getters and self-starters like Downing and Clavell then they will be able to fend for themselves, but what about the students that don’t know where to start? What about those that need a little extra help or just don’t know where to start? The point of these centers are to help students and put them on the path in the right direction, of course the students have to be proactive themselves and actually take the time to utilize their resources as well.

Overall it is very clear that the university needs major improvement, based on the response from students in the survey. It’s nice that Marymount places a strong emphasis on community service and working in a team environment, but students need the tools to get them in the situation of a team environment. What good is the skill of teamwork if you are unable to even put yourself in a position to be on the team? Marymount should shift their focus onto helping students find and secure jobs so that they will be able to use the other skills they have instilled in it’s students. There needs to be a complete reform of the career center, advising department, and a more dedicated resource for just internships, separate from resources used for job searches. It’s nice that Marymount introduces the freshman students to Jobs4Saints in their Discover class, but what good is doing them if their internship isn’t going to count for credit for another two to three years? The introduction of how to look for internships should be introduced at least spring semester or fall semester (at the latest) to upperclassmen students, just so it is fresh in their mind. The university could might even consider training advisors on helping students navigate the website since it will be them that the students go to to get their scheduling and internship approved. They could even make it mandatory to at least visit the career center before their sophomore spring semester schedule is approved just so the student is aware of the services they offer and that the career center is a resource that they can utilize for many things. Downing suggest that there be more opportunities when it comes to professional internships and the university should consider using their prime location minutes from DC to expand on those internships. As for jobs, offering more job fairs, on top of the two that occur, once per semester. Marymount should also consider either bringing in more people designated for academic advising to lessen the load that some professors have due to them being academic advisors and also having classes to run. This could make the advisors more available to students and give them more time to really have beneficial in depth meetings, and to form a better professional relationship with their advisees. Of course it will take time to implement every single thing that students believe are lacking with the university when it comes to post graduation preparedness, but with the reform and redistribution of resources that could not only benefit undergraduate students but graduate students as well, Marymount could start to see a rise in satisfaction with about resources students need to be prepared for life post graduation.

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Takoma Park, DC

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