This is the second in a series of articles about experiences in college that can affect graduates’ engagement and well-being after college. Read the first in the series here.
A recent poll of nearly 30,000 college graduates conducted jointly by Purdue University and Gallup, Inc. looked at the relationship between college experiences and college graduates’ lives post-graduation. The study examined workplace engagement and graduates’ sense of well-being as well as factors influencing students’ life while in college.
According to the results of this study, six factors emerged as important influences on graduates’ engagement and well-being. Over the next six weeks, our series, College Experiences That Lead to Well-Being After Graduation will examine each of these factors and how students can take control of their college experiences to make sure that they participate in the activities in college which will help them in the future. We hope parents will share these ideas with their college students to help them work to pursue these important experiences.
My professors at college cared about me as a person.
Less than a third of graduates in this study, 27%, strongly agreed with the above statement. Obviously, this means that the large majority of students who attend college do not feel that they make a strong enough connection with their faculty members for the professor to care about them as a person.
Hopefully, faculty members will learn the results of this study and will work harder to get to know their students as individuals — and to let their students know that they care about them. Although the activities in which faculty member must engage, research, writing, assessment, planning, committee work are essential, perhaps schools could encourage faculty members to take time to work with and get to know students outside of the classroom even more.
Once again, however, students can also help to improve the relationship between faculty members and students. Students can do more than sit back and wish that their professors cared more.
- As early as the college admission process, students (and their parents) can begin to ask about student/faculty relationships. Most colleges share their student/faculty ratio, but that really does not reveal much about the relationships between students and faculty members. Students can ask about how many students work on research or projects with faculty members, how many faculty members advise clubs or organizations outside of the classroom. Students can ask current students how many faculty members attend athletic events, concerts, theater productions, etc. When visiting campus, students can look around on campus to see whether faculty and students are together outside of the classroom — perhaps in the dining hall, student center, library or other areas.
- Students need to keep looking for those faculty members who do care about students as individuals and who go out of their way to get to know their students. Students can increase the odds that their professor will care for them if they seek out those professors known for interaction with students.
- Faculty members need to make themselves accessible — through office hours, open office doors, availability on campus — but students need to take advantage of the opportunities provided. If a faculty member has office hours (almost all do) students need to take advantage of those times — even if it is just to stop in to say hello. Students can make appointments with professors, or chat with them in the hall. A caring relationship is almost always a two-way relationship.
- Students need to be willing to share some information with their professors — and to be honest. It is difficult for a professor to show caring if a student does not share information, their background, their difficulties, or even their learning style. Students might inadvertently set up barriers by avoiding difficult or uncomfortable conversations.
- When a student has a professor who does seem to care about them, they need to think about caring back. Professors are people, too, and respond more warmly to someone who also cares about them. The partnership of caring builds the relationship.
Students need to do their best work in the classroom, and academics are a key focus of the college experience. But students have a life outside of the classroom too, as do faculty members. The more that both students and professors can work on establishing and growing their relationships, the more that everyone will feel cared for — and the more everyone will thrive.