How graduating seniors and parents can make better college choices

College readiness cuts both ways.

If you are ready for college, are you making sure college is ready for you? What are your key metrics for choosing a college?

Is it the success of the football program? If so, how does that success impact your future?

Is it proximity to home? Reputation of a particular program or faculty member? Scholarship offer? Culture? Family tradition or pressure? Friends? School colors? Mascot?

Should not a key metric in choosing a college be the likelihood of landing a decent-paying job in your preferred field of study upon graduation? If so, how do you measure the potential return on investment of your money and academic career?

Once you have identified your personality preferences and aligned those with fitting career options, the first stop at any prospective university should be that school’s career center before even applying for admission. The mission of the career center is to: 1) market you by attracting recruiters to the school and maintaining strong relationships with employers, and, 2) help you prepare to engage with those recruiters and demonstrate that you have the goods to solve their problems.

Most universities have at least one career center. Larger universities may have a dozen or more, one for each school or college within the university (the University of Texas at Austin has at least 17 career centers, one for each school or college within the university). It is important to speak with senior staff at the correct career center serving your prospective major(s).

How do you measure the quality of a career center?

A few key questions to begin your analysis:

  • Over the past three years, how many graduating seniors secured jobs through the career center upon graduation?
  • What percentage of graduating seniors utilized the career center?
  • What percentage of graduating seniors who utilized the career center secured jobs through the career center?
  • Who is the career center director and how long has he or she served in that position?
  • How many staff are employed by the career center?
  • What is the ratio of career center staff to students?
  • What is the center’s budget?
  • Is the career center equipped with effective advising resources to assist students with setting and tracking a holistic suite of goals?
  • What companies/organizations routinely recruit from the school or college?
  • Do those companies recruit for both internships and for permanent positions?
  • How many recruiters do those companies send? How often?
  • How many job fairs does the career center sponsor throughout the year?
  • Which companies/organizations have routinely exhibited at career center events over the past five years?
  • What percentage of graduating students are placed upon graduation? Within one month of graduation? Within 6 months?
  • What is the average starting salary of students being placed from that college?

Starting salary is not the only measurement, but if you are about to invest at least four years of your life and possibly take on unforgivable debt or expend hard-earned savings, it is not a metric to dismiss.

You are about to make a significant investment in paying a school to help you prepare for your career. Do your due diligence and make sure that school is prepared to deliver a return on your investment. That due diligence begins at the doors of the career center.

Is your college ready for you?

Copyright © 2022 Don Stroud