How Colleges Can Help Students Avoid Graduation Job Anxieties—New Report

Innovative schools combine academic and career advising to avoid underemployment

Washington, District of Columbia, UNITED STATES

Washington, DC, April 04, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- An EAB analysis found that for every 100 students who start a bachelor’s degree, only 35 will graduate and get a job that requires a college degree by age 27. Faced with the sobering data that a majority of students end up with undesirable outcomes from their higher education experience, universities are rethinking career preparation.

Progressive schools such as Clark University (Massachusetts) and James Madison University (Virginia) are integrating academic advising and career counseling and extending career preparation across students’ college experiences. These promising trends are described in detail in a new EAB report based on interviews with more than 125 college and university academic leaders, “Integrating Academic and Career Development.”

At most universities, academic advising is distinct from career counseling, which can lead students to choose classes and majors that do not prepare them for their desired professions. And, in many cases, students only see a career counselor when they are about to graduate, which is too late to address misalignment.

“The class of 2018 is preparing to enter the job market and expecting to get jobs that will put their hard-earned degrees to good use. But our analysis shows that most students don’t get a return on their education. Only 63 out of 100 students who attempt a bachelor’s degree eventually earn one, and only 35 of those graduates end up working in a job that requires their degree,” said EAB Managing Director Ed Venit. “With that in mind, it’s imperative that colleges and universities completely change how they counsel students and make careers a key part of every conversation, from the second students step foot on campus.”

Forward-thinking schools, such as Clark and James Madison, are creating hybrid advising roles to help students choose the classes, majors, and extracurricular opportunities that will lead them to the jobs they ultimately want. When these new advisors see weak alignment between students’ chosen majors and their desired careers, they can help students select alternative majors or professional ambitions. They can also help students link mismatched majors and careers, such as helping a creative writing major who wants to work in business find a banking internship.

Clark combined several support teams to help students develop and articulate one consistent narrative about their academic and extracurricular choices. Instead of talking to several specialized advisors about their major, minor, internship, study abroad, career goals, and academic support needs, Clark students have one conversation with a cross-functional advisor. By offering students holistic advice, in one year Clark doubled the number of times students sought support: In 2013–2014, the school had just under 5,000 interactions with students; in 2014–2015, advisors interacted with students over 10,000 times. Moreover, within six months of graduation, 97 percent of Clark alumni are working, in graduate school, or completing a year of service.

James Madison also merged its academic and career counseling departments to create clearer alignment between students’ studies and career ambitions. A cross-trained advisor helps students articulate their interests, skills, values, and goals and plan personalized academic and career paths. And to further enhance students’ career preparation from the first day of school, James Madison added a career readiness coordinator position to make sure all students, from freshmen through seniors, are aware of the skills they need to secure the jobs they want and develop those skills during their time at James Madison, through traditional courses, experiential learning, and internships. James Madison’s approach has been successful: For the class of 2016, 95 percent of students were employed, in graduate school, or in some other career-related endeavor, such as an internship, within six months of graduation.

“It’s so important that students start hearing from the first year what they need to learn to get a job and how they can develop those skills on campus or off,” said James Madison University Director of Career and Academic Planning Mary Morsch. “We want students to capitalize on opportunities early on, instead of waiting until senior year.”

About EAB
At EAB, we are making education smarter. We harness the collective power of more than 1,200 educational institutions to generate insights that address education leaders’ top challenges. Then we apply these insights through research, technology, and services: We help leaders find and enroll the right students through enrollment marketing and financial aid optimization. We support student success through our student success management system, which helps advisors, faculty, and staff guide students through school and to the post-graduate outcomes students want. And we provide institutions with the strategic guidance and data they need to improve mission-critical outcomes and prepare for tomorrow’s students. For more information, please visit


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