What Colleges Do Employers Love?

I have parents ask me variations of this question all the time: What are the best colleges and universities to attend that will ultimately generate jobs for my child?

I think it’s rare that going to any particular school, by itself, will result in an automatic job for a new college graduate.

I am willing to concede, however, that there are some exceptions. For instance, I talked recently to an admission officer from Marietta College in Ohio, who was bragging about the petroleum engineering program there.

I was stunned that a little school – rather than a large university – would even have an engineering school. Marietta College, which offers no other engineering degrees, apparently started the program decades ago because of the presence of regional shale deposits. The admission officer said that students in the petroleum engineering program, which is the ninth largest in the country, have many summer internships opportunities and that all the graduates have jobs lined up by the start of their senior year in college.

Here’s another exception: If you want to work for Wall Street investment banks  (assuming you aren’t bothered by avarice and amorality as a business code), you probably will enjoy a significant advantage going to certain Ivy League schools.

For the vast majority of jobs, however, I don’t believe that undergrads need to go to particular colleges or choose a particular college major. To improve their chances of winning a job, students need to focus on more than just earning good grades. As a practical matter, students should be taking full advantage of their college experience, which will allow them to create resumes that will impress employers.

Here are some of the things that will get young college graduates hired:

  • Internships
  • Undergraduate research
  • Meaningful part-time or summer jobs
  • Ability to write cogent papers
  • Ability to collaborate with others
  • Ability to give professional presentations
  • Impressing professors who will be happy to write great recommendations

Your chances of graduating with all these skills and experiences are going to be easier at some schools. Some institutions, for instance, aren’t going to provide undergraduate research opportunities to undergrads or require much writing.

I’d suggest that one way to gauge how successful schools are at producing employable graduates is to look on the academic pages of colleges’ websites.  The engineering department at Marietta provides a great example of a school sharing what their graduates end up doing.

Does anyone else have ideas on how to gauge the success of schools in preparing their students for ultimate careers? I’d love to hear them.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also write a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch.com and US News.

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