Gallup: The six college experiences linked to lifelong success

'Simply getting a degree is not enough'

New report findings indicate that six college experiences are strongly linked to time-to-degree and post-graduation success, Gallup reports.


The Gallup-Purdue index, a research effort among Gallup, Purdue University, and the Lumina Foundation focuses on studying the connection between undergraduate experience and real-world success.

For the report, researchers examined results of a web survey completed by a nationally representative random sample of 29,560 respondents who had internet access, were at least 18, and hold bachelor's degrees. They measured how engaged respondents were in their work, as well as their community, physical, financial, and social well-being.

'The big six'

Researchers found that six elements of an undergraduate experience had a significant effect on a students' post-graduation success:

1. A professor who made them excited to learn;
2.A professor who cared about them as individuals;
3. A mentor who pushed students to reach their goals;
4. Working on a long-term project;
5. Completing a job or internship related to classroom lessons;
6. Being engaged in extracurricular activities and groups.

Just 3% of students said they "strongly agree" they had all six experience that the researchers say have a "stronger relationship to long-term life outcomes... than the type of school these graduates attended."

Additionally, of graduates who strongly agree their schools prepared them well for life, 82% reported experiencing all big six, compared with just 5% who say they experienced none.

Business major blues: Lack of purpose and guidance

The big six are also connected to time-to-completion: 75% of graduates who "strongly agreed" they experienced all six finished their degrees in four years—while that rate fell to just 61% for respondents who reported experiencing none.

'Simply getting a degree is not enough'

These findings indicate colleges and universities need to rethink graduation requirements, argues Gallup Education's executive director, Brandon Busteed.

"We fail," he says, if we believe a college degree ensures a better life and job, as we do if we measure success by salary size.

"There is so much more value to college than what we are systematically measuring now," says Busteed.

Students, staff, faculty, parents, and employers must ensure students make the most of college, he says, "simply getting a degree is not enough" (Busteed, Gallup, 4/8; Seymour/Lopez; Gallup, 4/8).

The takeaway: Six key undergraduate experiences affect post-graduation success, according to a new report from Gallup. For more on student success, visit our collaborative.

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