Increasingly, colleges including Georgia State are realizing their role extends beyond getting students to graduation, but into careers.
Photo: Georgia State University
Photo: Georgia State University

Opinion: Prepare college students to find careers after graduation

Two-thirds of college seniors said they didn’t feel well prepared to succeed in a job search

Tim Renick is senior vice president for student success at Georgia State University.

With classes set to start Monday at GSU, Renick highlights the university’s efforts to help its students make the transition from college to career.

By Tim Renick 

Is college still the key to a rewarding career? 

A national survey conducted last year showed two-thirds of college seniors did not feel well prepared to succeed in a job search. Three-quarters said they didn’t know which jobs were an appropriate fit for them. 

Parents, students and elected officials are asking whether an investment in higher education really pays off in a satisfying career. Those of us in higher education know research has shown time and again a college degree retains great value, but we also recognize we are being asked to prove it like never before. 

We’re proud that the Brookings Institution ranks Georgia State University 25th in the nation for social mobility: the institution’s impact on moving students from lower economic status before enrollment to a higher economic standing post-graduation. At Georgia State, we know to continue having that impact it’s crucial to add meaningful career preparation to the value of a diploma.  

We’ve built a national reputation for programs and projects aimed at fostering student success. We’re graduating 2,800 more students a year than just six years ago and we’ve reduced the time to degree by half a semester, saving students $18 million a year. We’ve eliminated achievement gaps based on race, ethnicity or income.  

The new university-wide “College to Career” initiative is our next step as a national leader in student success. We’re using creative programming and the latest technologies to ensure that, from their very first semester at Georgia State, students engage in activities that get them ready for life after graduation. 

The program begins in freshman-year orientation courses, where students are introduced to key career competencies and skills thousands of employers have indicated they value most highly in today’s workplace.  

These courses also introduce students to our University Career Services, where they can get career counseling, help with resumes, information on internships and more. At almost all colleges and universities, students wait until their senior year to take advantage of the career services office. Students need more than a few months to make career decisions--so we’ll make that connection right off the bat.  

Freshmen also receive an account in Portfolium, an electronic career portfolio platform that helps students showcase term papers, audiovisual presentations or videos they have created, documenting the career skills they are learning throughout their time with us. 

Were connecting career competencies to the student’s discipline. Faculty are building in to dozens of “gateway” courses--the introductory courses students take in each academic field--ways to connect what students are learning to its practical value in their careers. And all disciplines offer a “signature experience”—a course that requires students to learn outside the classroom--in businesses, non-profits, government offices and arts organizations.  

In every meeting with advisers, students discuss their options for classes and majors explore job openings in metro Atlanta, the careers associated with each discipline and the average starting salaries students can expect to earn. 

Because data and analytics are central to almost everything we do, we’ve conducted a comprehensive search for our alumni so we will be better able to identify and evaluate career outcomes now and in the future. Students will be able to search this new online database to learn about the career trajectories of more than 150,000 Georgia State alumni across Georgia and the globe. 

We recognize our responsibility to our students does not end when they cross the stage at commencement. We must do all we can to prepare them for life after graduation, and we must demonstrate the true value of a Georgia State degree by doing all we can to give them every opportunity for fulfilling lives and careers. 

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.