My mantra, “What you do in college matters more than where you go,” often begs the reasonable question of just what exactly students who embrace that mantra should do while they’re in college.
The teams of social scientists at the Gallup Organization set out to answer this question with the Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey, now in its fourth iteration. Rather than limiting their measures to the usual job placement rates and alumni salaries, they’ve expanded the measures to include levels of fulfillment in both work and life, all in an effort to measure the quality of a college experience from the perspective of college graduates. Their findings identified six college experiences that correlated strongly with post-college success (this summary below is taken directly from Gallup’s new book, It’s the Manager, but you can access the full study here).
- Having at least one professor who made them excited about learning
- Professors who cared about them as a person
- Having a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams
- Working on a project that took a semester or more to complete
- Having an internship or job that allowed them to apply what they’d learned in the classroom
- Being extremely active in extra-curricular activities and organizations while in college
Here’s the good news, and some pressure: each of those outcomes is determined almost entirely by the student’s willingness to actively search for the relevant opportunities while in college. Waiting passively for your college to hand them to you abdicates responsibility and reduces your likelihood of discovering them to pure chance.
Will you actively search for subjects and professors that inspire you?
Will you engage with academic advisors, career center staff, and other faculty members who can advise and guide you?
Will you seek out activities that help you learn, grow, and discover your talents?
Will you explore internship opportunities on and off campus?
Put more directly, will you build a remarkable college career?
And for high school underclassmen just beginning your college search, look for opportunities to demonstrate the same kind of initiative and agency to drive your high school education and experience. If you practice doing so in high school today, you’ll be more prepared to make the most of college tomorrow.