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Why College Grads Aren't Ready For The Real World

In August the Chegg Textbook Company conducted a survey of 2,000 students between the ages of 18-24 at both two and four year colleges, asking them to rate their preparedness for potential tasks at various workplaces. Additionally, they asked students what aspects of their application would be most useful in actually getting hired.

At the same time, Chegg sent out a parallel survey to 1,000 hiring managers at a broad variety of companies, all who had hired recent college graduates in the past couple months. The hiring managers were asked to evauate their new employees according to the same scale that current college students self-rated on.

The results are not entirely surprising (to me at least), but are certainly eye opening. It begs the question: why are college tuition rates increasing so much when the return on a pricey degree is decreasing?

The misconceptions start right away pertaining to how recent grads get hired: 45% of students thought school prestige had a significant influence on getting hired, compared to only 28% of hiring managers saying it had an impact, which implies that potentially 17% of future graduates will not apply for a competitive position because they feel under-qualified.

Optimistically, less than half of students believe that going to a “better” school will help on an application. …wait, why did I just spend 50,000 a year for my Vassar degree?

The common phrase “It's not what you know, it's who you know,” is believed by 77% of college students. That is significantly over the 52% of hiring managers who admit to the correlation of networking and hiring.

All you college kids stressing about your GPA, breathe. What you should be stressing about is getting that internship. Only 48% of hiring managers said that GPA is a significant factor in hiring, compared to 68% of students who trusted in their cumulative hard work (or excellent course selection skills).

According to the survey, the three most common things for hiring managers are: 93% look for a demonstrated initiative and potential towards leadership, 91% look for extracurricular activities related to the students degree, and 82% strongly believe that college students should complete a formal internship before graduation.

Here are the basics of the survey, showing the beliefs in relevant skills gap:

General Job Readiness:

50% of Students
39% of Hiring Managers

Grads can develop compelling/concise slide presentations:

75% of Students
60% of Hiring Managers

Organization:

70% of Students
54% of Hiring Managers

Writing to summarize/convey information:

70% of Students
51% of Hiring Managers

Prioritizing work:

77% Students
50% of Hiring Managers

Writing to communicate/explain:

71% of Students
49% of Hiring Managers

Incorporating information to develop strategy:

63% of Students
46% of Hiring Managers

Managing project with key steps resources timeline:

67% of Students
46% of Hiring Managers

Public Speaking:

54% of Students
43% of Hiring Managers

Decision-making with incomplete information:

47% of Students
37% of Hiring Managers

Managing a meeting:

49% of Students
34% of Hiring Managers

Budgeting:

52% of Students
30% of Hiring Managers

On the bright side, the survey shared that 66% of students and 63% of hiring managers both believe that students are very-to-completely prepared to use their technical skills at the organization that hired them.

Additionally, the study suggests that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) majors have a slight advantage in the work place in some aspects (which I found poorly defined, probably because I wasn't STEM).

Small note! Chegg is a textbook company, so it is worth considering their motive and what role it may have had in this survey. I think that Chegg is doing some interesting and valuable research here, but the reason is so that they can justify designing new textbooks and selling them to college students for exorbitant prices.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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Christian La Du

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After years of intense training, Christian emerged from Vassar College as a partially-fledged writer with a degree in economics, who is capable of consistently achieving mediocrity while striving for greatness. He knows how to tie his shoes and ...
After years of intense training, Christian emerged from Vassar College as a partially-fledged writer with a degree in economics, who is capable of consistently achieving mediocrity while striving for greatness. He knows how to tie his shoes and ...

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