How should placement rates factor into your college search?

As you look at rankings, lists of majors, faculty ratios, and all that stuff, it’s easy to lose track of how any of that will actually impact you. You want a place that boosts your career aspirations (and your parents would like to know you won’t live at home forever).

Unfortunately, accurate information on that topic is REALLY hard to come by. Every school seems to have a great placement rate, and for good reason. Most schools get those numbers by surveying their students, and who do you think writes back? The happy students! The graduate who was lucky to land the fry-guy position is rarely inclined to update the alumni office on his current activities. So colleges all get to offer these very glowing reports (yay for us), which have very little actual information (bummer for you).

A better way to get this information is to look more practically at what the school will DO to help YOU. Nearly every school has a Career Services office, but each will offer a slightly different range of services. How does the school connect you to internships and work experience? Do they offer support for finding funding for graduate school? Can you get a class schedule that fits with work hours in your field without delaying your graduation?

Another topic is the degree to which your future professors are connected. That often means faculty with experience outside of the college and university setting. I love to brag that Mason’s faculty includes a former governor, former news reporters, and even a former bio-warfare expert from the CIA (ok – that connection terrifies me, but if you’re into that…). We have the advantage that the D.C. area has the most per capita PhD’s in the world, so we have a fairly easy time getting connections in the classroom that would be remarkable in other parts of the country (there I go bragging again – the price you pay for free advice!).

In any event, don’t just take a “placement rate” as a simple way to compare schools. As I’ve mentioned before, look a bit deeper at the ways an institution can be a more significant match for you.


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