College was a balancing act for 78% of 2022 grads. Now they want their lives back.

Confident and determined as they enter the job market, this class is expecting a slew of benefits from employers.

More than three-quarters of recent college graduates say the tumultuous past two years of the pandemic not only impacted their studies but also has left them exhausted and seeking some time off before they enter the job market.

In a new study of bachelor’s degree and associate degree holders done by Best Colleges, 33% of students admitted that COVID-19 forced them to delay completion of degrees or pushed them to graduate later than expected. Around one-quarter either changed their career paths or majors during their time in higher education.

While only 6% of graduates in 2021 said they needed time off before jumping into the workforce, this year 18% of students surveyed will opt for some relaxation before starting. Many studies have shown that the majority of college students have had their mental health negatively impacted by the pandemic, political polarization, social justice issues and other pressures.

“After more than two years of experiencing college during the pandemic, taking time off after graduation might be a way for some to achieve balance in their life before moving forward with their degree in hand,” said Jessica Bryant, an analyst for Best Colleges, which surveyed more than 430 students last week.

Recognizing the effects of stress, 89% say they are striving for more work-life balance. Nearly one-half are expecting those who hire them to be open in allowing them time to unwind. Half of them want good health coverage and flexible schedules—something they experienced firsthand over the past two years as institutions delivered hybrid options—though many still appreciate the in-person environment. More than 40% want a wellness component from employers. The majority of those who want that balance say time away from work, especially when not in the office, is important as is the “ability to say no.” More women than men expressed a desire for that added flexibility.

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Right now, graduates are in a strong position to ask for extras as millions of positions nationwide remain unfilled. “In this tumultuous job market, there has been a lot of talk around young workers demanding certain benefits from employers, and that culture fit is of the utmost importance to them,” Bryant said. “While some college grads believe employment-related factors are necessary, most are also personally committed to putting in the effort to achieve the work-life balance they desire.”

Despite the need for some R&R, they are showing renewed confidence as they enter the workforce. The majority of those surveyed (66%) believe their colleges did well to prep them for their careers, a jump of 15% from last year’s study. The percentage of students who will remain in postsecondary education, meanwhile, dropped from 39% to 21% year over year.

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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