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‘High-Impact Practices’ Are Key To Landing A Job After College

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Graduating from college is supposed to make finding a job easier, but that hasn’t been the case for millions of new graduates in recent years. Researchers from the University at Buffalo investigated what college students can do to improve their chances of finding meaningful work post-graduation. Their study finds “high-impact practices” can make all the difference. Specifically, students who engage in four or more high-impact practices are 70 percent more likely to either find a job or enroll in grad school after earning a bachelor’s degree.

What exactly is a high-impact practice?

The team says study abroad semesters, internships, community service, first-year seminars, capstone courses, and undergrad research programs are all good examples. Study authors add each additional high-impact practice a student takes up results in a 17-percent higher chance of full-time employment and a 30-percent higher chance of attending graduate school. These effects held up regardless of individual student or family backgrounds.

These findings may prove very useful in closing the learning gap between immigrant and international college students in comparison to U.S.-born students, the research team speculates. Generally, immigrant students are poorer than their educational peers, participate in fewer high-impact practices, and have a harder time graduating and subsequently finding employment or grad school enrollment.

Tougher road to employment for immigrants

Meanwhile, international students excel when it comes to both graduation rates and grad school enrollment, but still lag behind when it comes to finding a job. This is especially curious because international students typically take part in more high-impact practices than U.S.-born students. It’s worth noting, however, that international students also face more obstacles due to a number of strict immigration policies limiting employment, internships, and research opportunities for non-U.S. citizens.

“Disadvantaged students are often neglected and stereotyped as not being capable of obtaining success when it is the environments that are at fault,” says lead investigator Jaekyung Lee, PhD, professor of counseling, school and educational psychology in the UB Graduate School of Education, in a university release. “Transforming one’s self-trajectory at the individual level is an unfair burden on students whose every day is already fraught with multi-systemic barriers. Intentional, committed action at the institutional level is vital to students’ college readiness and success.”

“It is important that higher education institutions do not merely state they value inclusion, but provide support services that address key issues such as language difficulties, adjusting to cultural norms, financial concerns and discrimination,” adds Namsook Kim, PhD, co-author and clinical assistant professor of educational leadership and policy.

Researchers based their findings on student transition from college to career data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Additionally, the team interviewed international and immigrant students for their perspectives on the topic. The study considers a student “U.S.-born” if their parents were born in the United States. Conversely, researchers labeled students as immigrants if their parents were born in another country but now live in the U.S.

The study appears in the International Journal of Educational Research Open.