One of the main reasons to research a college before applying is to find out what life would be like if you choose to attend that school ... what your classes would be like, what kind of dorm room you'd live in, what you'd do on weekends and how far away from home you'd be.
But perhaps even more important than finding out what your life will be like while you're at school is to find out what it'll be like after you graduate.
If you haven't even started college yet, graduation may seem like a lifetime away -- but it'll be here before you know it, and you'll want to make sure you're well-prepared for "the real world" when the time inevitably comes.
So, even though sampling the school's cafeteria food and perusing its course catalog may seem like the more relevant research right now, be sure to check out its career services programs, too. In a few short years you'll be glad you did. To help you out, here are four keys to choosing the kind of college that will help you get hired after graduation.
1. Check the job placement report.
"Students and parents should request a job placement report from colleges under consideration," says Christine Bolzan, founder of Graduate Career Coaching, a Massachusetts-based firm that provides career coaching to college students and recent grads. "Most schools will have this information posted on their website and the numbers usually reflect how many students who were actually looking for a job had one by three months post-graduation."
The report will also tell you how many students opted to go to grad school instead of straight into the workforce.
2. Ask the right questions.
If you have an admissions interview, or attend an orientation session at the school you're interested in, prepare some questions beforehand that will help you determine how career-focused the school is, and the types of programs and resources it offers.
If you get some one-on-one time with a representative from the school, Bolzan suggests asking the following questions:
- "Which companies hire the most students from each graduating class?"
- "How many companies come to campus? How many on-campus interviews are held each year?"
- "What percentage of students obtain their post-grad job as a direct result of on-campus recruiting activity?
- "What is the student to career counselor ratio?"
3. Find out about internships.
Internships are one of the biggest determinants of post-grad success. They'll give you real-world experience, bolster your resume, and provide invaluable networking connections. So it's imperative to not only find out about a school's internship programs, but to take advantage of them once you enroll.
"The strongest career development programs have focused their resources on [internships], and are getting students in the door earlier (freshman/sophomore year)," Bolzan notes. "It is wise to ask about internship support. Many schools have terrific programs funded by alumni that will offer grants to students who have taken unpaid internships but still need summer funds to contribute to the cost of their education. Inquire if the school has such opportunities."
Additionally, it's a good idea to ask whether or not the school provides credit for internships. "In this current market many companies are only offering internships for credit, but your school has to be willing to accept the credit for the student to be considered for the role. Schools not offering credit take their students out of the running for many terrific opportunities," Bolzan warns.
4. Talk to alumni.
You'll be one of them some day, so check in with alumni to see how they've fared in the job market. You can track them down on Facebook or LinkedIn, or check out the alumni area of the school's website.
Once you find someone who is willing to talk with you, "ask how the school's reputation is perceived in marketplace, how strong the support was while in school and post-graduation, and how supportive the alumni network is," Bolzan suggests.
Additionally, while you're researching, pay attention to the social media groups for alumni. "Does alumni relations support a Facebook community? Is there a large LinkedIn group of alumni? Are there subgroups in the fields you are interested in? Often the social media channels are used to post jobs exclusively for alumni before they are shared more broadly, and some schools are more advanced than others in this regard."
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