College grads: 39% plan to pursue education, not jobs

A lack of opportunities during the pandemic, including internships, has left many feeling uneasy about looking for work.
By: | June 7, 2021
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Nearly 40% of graduating students say they will continue their educations rather than try to enter a tumultuous job market, according to a new report released by BestColleges.com.

The survey, conducted of 500 undergrads earning degrees this spring, shows their leeriness about finding work. More than half expressed apprehension over their employability, especially after missing out on opportunities such as internships that could have helped them during the past year.

More than half say the COVID-19 pandemic has altered short-term employment goals, and 41% believe it will have a “lasting impact on career trajectories”.

Of the 43% that will seek jobs, most are confident they can find one in the next year. There are approximately eight million positions available as employers have struggled to find candidates that match skills with openings. This group of grads may have a few caveats in their favor, including the ability to operate deftly in virtual spaces and in using technology.

“This year’s college graduates face challenging circumstances as they plan for their futures,” said Melissa Venable, Education Advisor for BestColleges.com. “However, learning remotely over the past year has likely given these students opportunities to develop the skills they’ll need — such as communication, technology, and collaboration skills — to successfully work remotely in their field.”

Looking to career centers

For both job seekers and education seekers, 2020-21 proved a challenging year, particularly for those looking to gain experience. A third of those polled said an internship they had planned was canceled, while 28% lost out on volunteer opportunities or career fairs. More than 20% lost the chance to get professional networking or mentoring, and 15% said they couldn’t get career services help.

For those who are venturing out and looking for work, 70% of those surveyed say they will turn to college career centers afor assistance. Those numbers balloon to 80% among students of color. More than half of those polled say they have have been happy with those services.

“College career centers are increasingly partnering with alumni groups to provide assistance even after graduation,” Venable said. “Career centers and services are a great place to learn more about the possibilities with the guidance of professional counselors and coaches.”

That said, less than 24% of graduates say they have networked or developed a professional relationship with a mentor through a career services office. The majority say they instead have leaned on family or friends for guidance (44%), professors (38%) past employers (34%) or simply “cold-calling” or “cold-emailing” (34%). So, there are opportunities for career services teams to be more proactive in reaching out to students.

Professional organizations were cited as another potential source of career path help, with students of color (30%) relying on them far more than white students (17%).