Study: Meaningful internships a critical factor for student satisfaction

New survey shows the value of applying lessons outside the classroom

Students who have internships that apply what they learn in the classroom are more than twice as likely to feel that college has prepared them well for life after graduation, according to a new survey from Gallup.

Sponsored by Purdue University and the Lumina Foundation, the survey was administered online to nearly 30,000 bachelor's degree holders. Overall, the analysis found that 29% of graduates strongly agreed with the statement "while attending college I had an internship or job that allowed me to apply what I was learning in the classroom."

Insight from the Student Affairs Forum: The art of employment

Recent graduates were significantly more likely to say they had meaningful work experience. Students who graduated after 2010 agreed 35% of the time—compared to 28% among those who graduated in the 1980s.

Relevant internships proved highly correlated with student satisfaction. A full 48% percent of students who reported meaningful work experiences said they felt college had prepared them well for life after graduation. But only 19% of students who did not have a meaningful job or internship agreed.

Jamie Merisotis, President and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, says the survey underscores the importance of developing students' critical thinking and collaboration skills outside the classroom. He adds, "These are skills that can often be developed through work opportunities like applied internships, community and national service, and experiential learning as complements to a rigorous academic program."

Employers increasingly are weighing a candidate's internships and work experience. A 2012 survey conducted for American Public Media found that employers said an applicant's internships and employment during school were more important than his or her GPA or other academic credentials (Seymour/Ray, Gallup, 11/13).

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