High-Impact Practices Equip Students for Employment, Graduate School

High-Impact Practices Equip Students for Employment, Graduate School

Angie Miller — High-impact practices (HIPs) are often stressed as important experiences within higher education; having positive connections to learning, development, and persistence among students. A recent study in the journal Higher Education, utilizing the NSSE Senior Transitions Topical Module data, extends the research on HIPs to early career outcomes. In looking at the influence of HIP participation on college seniors’ post-graduation plans and early job attainment, even after controlling for other student and institutional characteristics, the results point to the important role that HIPs may play as seniors graduate and move into other realms. Certain types of HIPs could be recommended for students, depending on their future goals.

In 2015, NSSE launched the Senior Transitions Topical Module; which explores post-graduation plans, links between the academic major and future plans, and confidence in skill development (and is accompanied by a first-year-specific module as well). This new Topical Module was well-received by participating NSSE institutions, and the responses from over 31,000 seniors from 127 institutions were used in the current study.

The research questions focused on the relationship between HIPs (learning communities, study abroad, research with faculty, internship, senior capstone experience, service-learning, and a formal leadership role) and seniors’ future plans and early job attainment. Seniors were asked to describe their immediate plans for after graduation, and provided the following response options: full-time employment, part-time employment, graduate or professional school, military service, service or volunteer activity, internship, travel or gap year, no plans at this time, and other. Those who responded that full- or part-time employment was their immediate plan (64%), were subsequently asked whether they will continue in a current job, start a new job, or do not yet have a job. These two items from the module were then paired with responses from the core NSSE questionnaire about HIP participation and several other demographic items.

Logistic regression models were developed to relate students’ participation in HIPs with students’ decision to seek employment or attend graduate school after graduation, and to relate HIP participation across the three job attainment categories. Participation in internships, capstone courses, or service-learning predicted students’ likelihood of having a job when graduating, while leadership experiences or research with faculty had a positive effect on students’ plans to continue their education by going to graduate school. That is to say, students who engaged in these activities were more likely than their non-participating counterparts to seek an advanced degree or have a job lined up.

Participation in an internship increased the likelihood that a student will have plans to start a new job after graduation more than any other HIP and more than most of the control variables in the models, suggesting this is a particularly effective experience for many students. Senior capstones and service learning were also related to a higher likelihood for attaining employment. Because some HIPs were linked to certain outcomes and not others, it may be beneficial for institutions to work on ways to connect students with opportunities for HIPs that are aligned with their educational and career aspirations. Additionally, these findings provide institutional, state, and national policymakers some evidence of the potential impact that HIPs have on graduates’ transition to work and encourage them to consider funding programs that persuade students to participate in these HIPs.

Miller, A.L., Rocconi, L. M., & Dumford, A.D.  (in press.).  Focus on the finish line: Does high-impact practice participation influence career plans and early job attainment?  Higher Education, vol and pp TBD.  Online first availability, doi: 10.1007/s10734-017-0151-z https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10734-017-0151-z