Do students understand the relationship between campus engagement and their future career? This question inspired a yearlong research project on first-year students at Central Michigan University.

Data Highlights

  • Employers actively look for high impact campus involvement (student organizations, part-time jobs, volunteerism) to be used to articulate skills on resumes and during interviews. Students do not consistently value campus involvements as experiences that demonstrate those skills, even though employers do.
  • Internships were the desired involvement for employers but they emphasized that any involvement is valuable if appropriately articulated. 
  • Students undervalue co-curricular activities that are not presented as formal leadership or in-field experience.
  • Employers showed a strong preference for depth over breadth when reviewing resumes. Many students believe that a large quantity of involvements "pads" their resume, whereas employers prefer to hear about one or two involvements that resulted in tangible skill development and experience.
  • 88% of students reported talking to family members about campus involvements with 65% indicating if their family did not support organizational choice they would not continue involvement. This presents family members as vital influencers of how students choose involvements and make meaning of those experiences. 
  • Students reported GPA as the most important factor for employability. Employers see skills learned from involvements as the most important part.

NACE Attributes Desired by Employers

Every year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers identifies the attributes/skills most desired by employers of college graduates. Previous research has identified on-campus involvement in co-curricular activities as a critical part of how these skills are developed. In particular, on-campus involvement provides students with experiences to demonstrate these skills.

This initiative has used these attributes as the basis for understanding how students perceive the value of co-curricular involvement. Additionally, these attributes are highlighted in the learning programs created for this initiative. When talking to your student about their involvements, use these skills as a guide to help them reflect on what they are learning and how they can best communicate that learning to employers.  

Link to the NACE website