Whether students are enrolling in their first college courses, putting maximum effort into their upper-division coursework, or nearing the end of their educational paths, they’re keeping an eye on their goals. This focus—their reason for attending college in the first place—can spark their motivation even on the days they’re struggling with assignments or stressed by their responsibilities.
But what are those goals? And how does college help them achieve those goals? In our Spring 2015 Student Engagement Insights survey, we asked over 3,000 college students about their goals and how they think college will enable them to get where they want to go.
To begin, let’s look at college students’ responses to the question: What are your goals after college?
Going by these results, it’s clear that most students attend college to improve their chances of obtaining a fulfilling career that lets them pay the bills. Among the choices listed on the survey, a good or better job ranked the highest, netting 80% of the student vote. Nearly two-thirds (62%) hope that their college achievements will result in a high-paying job (or, one that pays better than their current job). These results align with students’ answers to a question we previously covered at the Engaging Minds blog: “Was getting a good job your primary reason for attending college?” 73% of students said that yes, this was true for them.
Many students also told us that they have plans for continuing their formal education. More than half (56%) indicated that they’re hoping to pursue an additional degree after they complete their current program. Whether this means they’ll be working towards a bachelor’s degree after earning an associate degree, or they want to attend graduate school after completing their undergrad studies, a good percentage of students have additional educational goals beyond their current college experience.
Five additional post-college goals, as named by college students
As noted above, ten percent of our surveyed students noted that they had additional goals after graduation (aside from those named above). We observed trends among their responses, and we’ve summarized them below:
1. Pursue additional career-focused training, schooling, or certification. As we observed earlier, more than half of our survey respondents want to pursue another degree. But in addition, many students said that, once they finish college, they hope to pursue “certification paths,” a “cosmetology/beautician license,” “additional technical certificates,” “law school,” “medical school,” and other programs that prepare them to practice in fields that require licenses or advanced education.
2. Start a business. Several of the students we surveyed said that they plan to take an entrepreneurial route after graduation. For these students, the knowledge and skills attained during college will apply to the work they’ll put into building their own companies, services, practices, and firms.
3. Achieve personal satisfaction. For other students, the goals are less tangible (but by no means less important). Students listed “happiness,” “greater and broader experience,” “travel,” “work/life balance,” “pride,” “more knowledge,” and “personal completeness/wholeness” among their post-college goals. Others look forward to “doing what [they] want to do,” or a “job where I can grow but still be true to my beliefs,” while still others want to “retire” and “rest on [their] satisfaction of going to school at an elderly age.”
4. Serve and support others. We were encouraged by the students who wanted to use what they’d learned in college for the purpose of “helping others in need” and “pass[ing] knowledge on to others.” Many mentioned that they want to join a national or global aid effort, whether by working for a non-profit or NGO, joining the Peace Corps, or “provid[ing] aid for children and individuals with disabilities in war-torn countries.” Others stuck a bit closer to home, naming such activities as “mentoring,” “start[ing] a family,” “utilizing my newly gained knowledge to help others in my community,” or “passing on knowledge about… my experience in my specific school and helping whoever I can will attend that school in the future.”
5. Secure a better financial outlook. In addition to the 62% who say they have a goal of a high-paying (or higher-paying) job, several students commented that their goal is to “become financially independent.” One student put a date to the goal, writing of a desire to experience “financial freedom in two years after I graduate.”
Students name the top way college enables them to reach their goals
In this same survey, over three thousand students named the key way that they believe college will enable them to achieve these goals.
Nearly half (49%) of the students stated that the degree itself will help them get to where they want to go, whereas nearly one quarter (23%) said that the subject knowledge will be the key to reaching and achieving their goals. Clearly, the majority of students believe that their academic achievements will be the key to achieving their post-college goals.
Other factors proved to be a priority to fewer college students. A much smaller percentage (14%) said that building contacts and networking were the most valuable part of their college experience. And, only 12% said that critical-thinking skills were the key factor in helping them reach their goals. However, this doesn’t mean they devalue critical thinking; in a previous survey from Fall 2014, 99% of students agreed that critical thinking is an important skill, and 92% believe what they learn in class sharpens their critical thinking skills for the “real world.”
Truth be told, most students have many goals in mind when they decide to enter college. Likewise, they undoubtedly recognize that multiple factors will help them achieve their personal and professional goals. But, by knowing and understanding their key goals and priorities, we can be better prepared to help them succeed in those areas that matter the most to them.
Want to help your students achieve their academic goals, as well as their goals after college graduation? Review the tips in the blog posts below, and share your own suggestions in the comments.
The GPS Strategy for Achieving Goals
Tips for Students: Prioritizing Time to Achieve Your Goals
Tips for Students: Defining Your Values and Goals
Plans for College and the Future
- Length: 444 words (1.3 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Plans for College and the Future
What will I do for the rest of my life? Every person asks this question at some stage of their life, usually during their later teenage years. As a high school junior, I am now asking myself this question. After considerable thought, I have devised a tentative plan for my future. I realize that some of these plans and goals may change over time, but with a plan, the first steps of the journey can begin. To prepare me for the journey, I have taken very challenging high school curriculum, such as Honors and Advanced Placement courses. These classes will not only assist in my admission to college, but have also helped me to develop strong study skills and time management.
While attending college, it is my ultimate goal to become a doctor, either a podiatrist, radiologist, or plastic surgeon. I intend to earn my undergraduate degree at the University of Florida, majoring in chemistry. Then, I plan to attend medical school at the University of Florida, as well. After completing a residency in my specialty, I would like to begin a medical practice somewhere in central Florida.
Very important to my life after completing my education is having a family. It is my dream to become happily married and have children. Family has always been a great part of my life, and I wish to be a loving husband and parent. I am also looking forward to raising my children in the Catholic faith.
As an adult, I have numerous personal goals. Most importantly, I would like to own a home. Also, I would like to pursue my interests of water-sports by owning a boat and my long love of cars by owning a sports car. Other personal interests that will affect my years after college are my love for the outdoors and the thrill of traveling to many new places throughout the world.
As an educated professional in my community, I would like to make a contribution to society and my community. My background in hours of community service has prepared me for this and shown me its value.
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I anticipate that this community service would include involvement in ministries of my church and work with youth organizations. Also, I plan to use my medical skills for the benefit of the needy, possibly including those in disadvantaged countries through medical missions.
My plans and hopes for the future have been made. Even if some of them change over time, I am confident that I will have a happy and successful life. Though my goals for life after college are high, I believe I will reach them.