Ep. 261: Proving Immediate Student Value Post-Graduation

powered by Sounder

In the US, it is currently harder than ever to “grow up.” You can take all the suggested steps – college, internships, tons of job applications – and still wind up stuck in limbo post-graduation. 

Dr. Nicole Smith, Chief Economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, returns to the podcast to talk about the counterintuitive findings from their new series of reports on “The Uncertain Pathway from Youth to a Good Job” and whether or not our graduates’ immediate economic self-sufficiency needs to become our primary mandate.

The increasingly longer and winding path to adulthood

Times have changed when it comes to living in America, and it’s becoming more apparent by the day. The cost of education is higher than ever, the requirements of earning an education have become more intricate, and the available jobs are increasingly complex. 

There are many more hurdles to jump over for today’s youth to settle into a salaried job. Generations before, our parents and grandparents were married homeowners with successful careers by the age of 25. Yet, today, many people do not even attain that first “good” job until their early 30s.

Many professional careers even require post-graduate degrees to simply make entry-level salaries.

Dr. Smith and her team have set out to smooth the path for young adults navigating their way through life through methods of transparency and listening.

Clearing the way for the youth of today

A large part of why Dr. Smith believes young adults are taking longer to reach adulthood in society is that they are not adequately informed about the life path they decide on.

She emphasizes that it is crucial to inform young adults how their early decisions will play out later. This includes educating young adults on salary ranges and how they increase over time, and setting realistic expectations of their career paths. They should also be aware of the requirements and time commitments that are necessary to succeed. Finally, they need a representation of the various roles one could move through in their field. 

Because of this inadequate counseling, many are left defeated. Years after graduating from college, many have no job in their field, little knowledge of how to move forward, and a sense of regret in following their dreams. 

If students were shown the pathways and possibilities to expect and whether or not they would be capable of success in a specific career path, Dr. Smith says a lot more people would achieve post-graduation success. 

By offering career counseling starting as early as middle school, students would be more likely to get what they want out of their chosen career paths. In addition, counseling would offer awareness regarding the tools each student needs to reach their end goal.

Really understanding the time and the costs

A large part of education and the job hunt is money. Schooling costs more than ever these days. Plus, more and more education is also required as a prerequisite for employment. 

With the large financial investment by young adults and their parents into higher education, many are disappointed when this comes with little to no returns. 

“I think we have not done enough and done that well enough to guarantee that people quite understand exactly what they’re getting into when they take out their student loan and decide to pursue a career for their future,” says Dr. Smith.

Women are at the center of this issue because, statistically speaking, women tend to choose career paths that require going to graduate school to ensure a stable income and attend graduate school at higher rates than men. Because of this, women hold 60% of student debt.

Suppose both men and women were educated further on the financial investments necessary to find a job in their desired field and what financial returns they can expect from this investment. In that case, likely, student debt and post-grad disappointment would not be as high.

Making a more sound financial decision regarding your future is a huge part of success. For more information on Dr. Smith and her team’s findings, visit cew.georgetown.edu.


This post is based on a podcast interview with Dr. Nicole Smith, Chief Economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. To hear this episode and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.