Wednesday, April 27, 2011
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
Dear Mr. Bradshaw: I am a junior in high school. Like most of my friends, I have worked hard and want to get the most out of college so I can get a good job after graduation. I’m leaning toward majoring in electrical engineering. I’ve taken all the advanced placement math classes and believe I will do well no matter where I go to school, but I want to know the colleges and universities with the best job placement records. I am confident I will get into several, so how do I choose among them? Please help. -- Future engineer
High schools today do a good job of preparing students for college academically, but mentoring a student through the college selection process is a role that typically falls on the shoulders of guidance counselors. Most counselors have several years of teaching experience before becoming a counselor and because of their experience in the classroom they are adept at recommending the best classes to take in order to prepare a student for college. Finding the best job after college is generally not a part of their expertise. Most high school counselors rely on state surveys that track hiring trends by job category, but not by specific companies or schools attended.
You will find that by the time you reach your senior year in college the situation is much the same as it was in high school. College advisers focus on which classes you need to take in order to fulfill a major and are rarely informed as to which companies are hiring or at what starting salaries are. That responsibility falls to college career development offices, which are generally overwhelmed in today’s job market.
We are back to square one.
I recommend that instead of researching colleges solely on the basis of their ranking, students need to add an additional level of scrutiny. I advise them to check out the career development or placement office of the schools on their prospective list as well as the office of admissions. The admissions office is, after all, selling the university; the career development office is selling the student.
The placement office should be able to document who is hiring and which one of their school’s majors will command the best salary. Be prepared to find several surprises.
First of all, many colleges, if they track job placement data at all, do not make it easily available. Some lower-tier colleges do not even track this information.
It is best to call or visit the schools you want to apply to in person and insist upon receiving written proof of which employers hire their graduates. You will want to see a full disclosure document on graduate starting salaries. Do not let the office sidetrack you with anecdotal evidence or tell you that this information is confidential. After all, you are paying a lot of money for your education and the payoff should be a good job offer. The same process holds true for obtaining graduate school placement data.
Keep in mind that career development or placement offices at top colleges require prospective employers of their graduates to report extensive profiles on the students they hire, including a listing of majors, GPA, SAT scores, and starting salaries. The best colleges track this information going back five years and it is easily available to the public in open reference binders. Make the career development or placement office a stop during your campus tours and you won’t be disappointed later on.
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