|In the past three
years, I have conducted focus group research with hundreds of high
school juniors, seniors and their parents for the purpose of
understanding the criteria they use to decide where to attend college.
This work was implemented for client institutions who were seeking to
improve the overall marketing of their freshmen recruitment program,
with the objective of filling their incoming classes with the best
possible students at an acceptable cost.
While the research identified
some decision criteria that have remained consistent with what we found
several years ago (i.e., academic reputation, graduate school acceptance
record, cost, school size and location, availability of majors, etc.),
there was clearly a greater emphasis on the importance of some areas,
and also some new thinking among both students and parents that emerged
from the work implemented in the mid-1990's. Much of this related to the
overall value of the educational experience, articulated by most
as being the quality of the job the student was able to get upon
graduation...and the time it would take the graduate to be able to land
an acceptable position. For many parents, the job their child gets at
the end of their college experience is the payout of their investment,
and the only way they can measure the value received for the money.
Why do we feel this area has
emerged as so much more important today than in the recent past? Our
research suggests there are probably a few key reasons:
- First, the cost of the
college education has become so large and the sacrifice families
make to send their children to college is so significant, that
parents want to be sure they get some value for their investment.
- Second, many of the best
graduate schools now require (or significantly prefer) students to
have a few years’ work experience before applying, and as a
result, more students are not going directly to graduate school, but
work first and then attend a graduate program on a full or part time
- Third, the cost of graduate
school also has escalated dramatically, and many (if not most)
students need to earn some money before they can go to graduate
school so they can cover the expenses.
- Finally, there are more
students in college today than ever before, all wanting to land the
best possible job upon graduation. This results in a much more
competitive job market than ever before.
In working with both employers
and educational institutions to evaluate their career services program,
it became evident that there are at least four key areas that must be
considered. Institutions that make a commitment to learning about how
they perform in these areas relative to the competition, and then take
appropriate actions to strengthen their posture relative to career
services will significantly strengthen their student employment record
in the future, and the overall appeal to prospective freshmen. The areas
that must be analyzed in depth are as follows:
- The organization and
structure of the Career Services Office.
Specifically, does the school have the right people, and enough of
them to operate an effective Career Services program for the
institution. Further, are these people sufficiently in touch with
the right types of prospective employers so that they will come to
campus to interview students for positions.
- The services provided by
the Career Services Office to help the recruiting process.
For example, does this office provide assistance to students in the
- Identification of
careers of interest.
- Methods for
selecting the types of companies which would be appropriate for
them upon graduation.
- Development of resumes
and recruitment letters.
- Preparation for
recruitment interviews, both on and off campus.
- What are the attitudes of
the students on campus toward the Career Services Office?
For example, do the students feel this is an important service which
the college provides students, or are they more interested in
addressing the employment challenge using their own resources. The
answers to these questions can be very important relative to the
ultimate success of a career services program
- What are the attitudes of
prospective employers toward the students they interview on your
institutions do not recognize the value of conducting formal
research with organizations who currently recruit on the campus, and
also those who used to recruit there but have stopped coming, or
even some companies that should be recruiting on campus but do not.
The attitudes of the corporate recruiters toward your institution
could provide very important insights into such areas as:
- The quality of the
Career Services staff relative to helping employers have an
effective recruiting visit to your campus.
- The quality of your
- The overall quality of
the students they interview.
- The level of preparation
of the students for the interviews.
- What is the involvement
of the Career Services Office in the emerging electronic
- Do you participate in
the various on-line recruitment programs to give your students
greater access to job opportunities.
- Are you using the
on-campus network to promote Company visits and to remind
students of their appointments.
- Are you communicating
with students and recruiters by e-mail.
In summary, if your institution
is not spending considerable time and money planning for the future of
your Career Services Office, then you may be missing out on one of the
measurement criteria that students and parents of the future will use to
judge whether or not to apply to (or attend) your institution.
(copyright 1999 -