This is the fourth in a series of articles about experiences in college that can affect graduates’ engagement and well-being after college. Read the first three in the series here, here, and 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 a six week period, 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.
I worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete.
Thirty-two percent of graduates responding to this question strongly agreed. That means that nearly one third of college students worked on a long-term project — but nearly two-thirds did not. That means that a large majority of students have not had the experience of seeing through a longer project before they enter their career. Since many projects in the workplace are longer term projects, these students may be missing a key piece of preparation for workplace demands. And more importantly for this study, the majority of graduates have not engaged in one of the activities which will help them thrive beyond college.
Once again, perhaps colleges can and should do more to provide opportunities for students to participate in long-term projects. Rather than seeing each course as a compartmentalized unit, perhaps professors and departments could design more experiences that span multiple courses or semesters. This might require a new way of thinking and a new approach to course structure and grading.
However, students might also do more to ensure that they have the opportunity to experience longer projects. This might begin by helping students understand the importance and value of participating in these types of experiences. Students then need to do what they can to seek these experiences.
As students register for their courses each semester, they might investigate which courses assign longer term projects. Rather than shying away from courses with major projects, students might embrace the opportunity. Students might also look for opportunities to follow up a traditional class with an independent study which would allow them to extend something which they began in a class. This requires that students think ”outside of the box“ of the standard curriculum — and then persuade a faculty member to work with them.
Students can also investigate which professors may be engaged in ongoing research in their field. Connecting with those professors, taking a class, and then seeking an opportunity to assist with their research would give students an opportunity to not only engage in long-term research, but to potentially find a mentor who could provide them with guidance through their college career.
Students can also look for opportunities to participate in, or even design, long term projects outside of the college classroom — or even off campus. Through campus clubs or off-campus agencies, students might find opportunities to continue working on a project for multiple semesters or even multiple years. Service projects, or longer projects in the workplace, can provide students with opportunities to see a project through.
In order to participate in long-term projects, students need to seek opportunities — and students need to take the long view of their college career. It is tempting to view each semester as a separate unit, but students can look for connections and opportunities to bridge the semesters and find threads of ideas or projects which surpass those boundaries. Their opportunities to engage in interesting, long-term projects may be limited only by their imaginations and initiative.
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