What Matters Most In College

I attended a webinar led by Brandon Busteed, former Director of Education and Workforce Development at Gallup. He presented a well-known study – the Gallup-Purdue Index from 2015 – along with its most recent updates.

I have known of this study for years; its findings are as important as ever as your student looks for a college that will be both a great learning and personal growth experience.

This research, which consisted of 30,000 college graduates reflecting on their undergraduate experiences, recommends picking a college where you can thrive, not just one in which you attend class and get good grades.

Here are the six elements that made the biggest difference in eventual post-graduation success:

#1. A mentor who pushed students to reach their goals and dreams (this was ranked as most important). Professors were the largest group cited, but other staff, coaches, older students, or family members were also mentioned. Keep in mind that mentoring relationships with professors can be difficult to come by if class sizes are very large or undergraduate research is emphasized more than teaching.

#2. A professor who made the student excited to learn.

#3. A professor who cared about the student as an individual. Students specifically mentioned that their professors knew their names.

#4. Involvement in a long-term project. One that took a semester or longer to complete.

#5. Completing a job or internship related to classroom lessons.

#6. Being engaged in extracurricular activities and groups and being extremely involved in at least one activity.

As you can see, many of these factors are about much more than simply attending class. (The old saying, “The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it,” applies here!)

As you narrow your search over the next couple of months, make sure to ask probing questions of admissions staff, current students, and career services, and set up virtual or in-person meetings with professors in areas of interest. Doing so will help with your student’s post-graduation success!

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