In a recent Quartz article, writer Jenny Anderson wonders whether or not the college that a student chooses and attends is THE determining factor for happiness, fulfilment and success in their post-college careers. It turns out, new research suggests that’s it not about the school, it’s about the student.
A paper by scholars at Stanford Graduate School of Education indicates that students themselves determine their destinies, not their schools. “Research tells us that the most successful students, both in college and beyond, are the ones who engage in the undergraduate experience regardless of how selective a school may be,” says paper co-author Denise Pope. “This is almost always the case whether a student attends the top-ranked or 200th-ranked college.” After all, she goes on to say, any of us who’ve attended college knew slackers who went nowhere and people we knew would make it big simply by observing individual characteristics and engagement.
Gallup also has been studying post-college happiness and general life satisfaction amongst college graduates since 2014. They asked about “workplace engagement and well-being as measured by purpose, social, financial, community and physical health”. The results included thousands of bachelors-degree holders and found no relationship between college selectivity and either broad measure of life satisfaction, positing that what appears to matter is “what students are doing in college and how they are experiencing it.” The report puts togethersix college experiencesthat impacts how fulfilled employees feel later:
Taking a course with a professor who makes learning exciting
Working with professors who care about students professionally
Finding a mentor who encourages students to follow personal goals
Working on a project across several semesters
Participate in an internship that applies classroom learning
Being active in extracurricular activities
So, it would seem, the secret to post-college career success and fulfillment isn’t a magical potion based solely on school selectivity. How the student engages the college experience is just as, if not more, important. And, as Ms. Anderson points out in her article, sending your student to Yale isn’t a guarantee of the thing most of us claim to care about: being happy. I guess Mom and Dad had it right – when it comes to any endeavor, you get out of it what you put into it.