Career centers step up to meet new demands

One school gets students involved freshmen year

Amid increased focus on students' return on investment in higher education, colleges and universities are stepping up their career center services.

Colleges are feeling increased pressure to ensure graduates land jobs from students, parents, and the Obama administration—putting the spotlight on career services offices across the nation. Prospective students want to make sure they're spending tuition money wisely, and the White House's plans for a national college rating system will likely account for graduate employment and student loan repayment rates.

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Up to now, schools simply have not invested enough in career services, says Edwin Koc, director of research at the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The average counselor is expected to serve 1,500 students with "extremely limited resources," he says.

But now that is changing. Some schools have renovated centers, while others have built entirely new ones. In Maryland, Washington College invested in a $1 million facility in the heart of campus that will open in January, complete with lounge rooms and built-in cameras to record mock-interviews.

How to meet the demand for alumni career services

Other schools took a more focused approach. Franklin & Marshall College revamped their services three years ago, transforming the traditional center into the Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development. Counselors run workshops on financial literacy and business etiquette, along with offering the usual resume and interview tips.

Freshmen are assigned a "student development advisor" who guides them through internship and job hunts.

Before the overhaul, only about 20% of students—mostly seniors—interacted with the career center, says Beth Throne, associate vice president of student and post-graduate development, who led the initiative. But last year, nearly 75% met with an advisor, attended a workshop, or checked in online.

Managing student internship programs

"[Students] will leave with connections in their industry and beyond who will be there to mentor them long after they graduate," says Throne, adding that continual interaction with the office helps students hone in on what path they want to pursue post-graduation (Scott, Marketplace, 11/6).

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