Poll: Elite Colleges Don’t Guarantee Happiness

Most college students and their parents see college as a pathway to guarantee a good job and a foundation for success in the rest of their lives — and colleges often advertise this dream to their full advantage. For the few that get into the country’s most elite colleges, they see themselves as having a golden ticket into life and the job market. However, this is more and more rapidly becoming untrue.

Many graduates are finding that their happiness and success in life are not directly tied to what college they went to, but rather what they majored in and did, writes Matthew Belkin for The Wall Street Journal.

It also seems tied to how good and inspiring their professors were. The latter statement seems confirmed by a new Gallup survey of 35,00 graduates from across the US.

The poll did not ask for graduates’ wages at their jobs but instead asked if they felt happy and dedicated in their job setting. These people tend to be more productive and  a greater asset to their company.

The small group at the top of the happiness bracket in the survey did not go to college at the most prestigious schools. Instead, it was the students who had deep, meaningful relationships with professors or made meaningful strides in long-term academic projects and extracurricular activities who tended to be happier in their jobs and lives. Belkin writes:

“Where graduates went to college — public or private, small or large, very selective or not selective — hardly matters at all to their current well-being and their work lives in comparison to their experiences in college,” the Gallup-Purdue report concludes.

Only 11% of graduates are “thriving” in all five types of well-being that the survey asked for, according to Mark Trumbull for the Christian Science Monitor. These included social, physical, financial, community, and purpose.

Only 39% feel engaged at work and love their job, while 17% are not “thriving” in any of the five sections. Trumbull writes:

When college is done right, it has a profound effect on your life and your career,” says Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education. “But that’s not happening for the majority of college graduates.”

Other key findings by the study included age and when a graduate left school, reports Mary Beth Marklein for USA Today. Those who graduated in 2010 or later have a lower rate of well being than those who graduated before.

Another finding shows that graduates who left school with more debt were less likely to thrive than those who had less. For this reason, four-year graduates thrived more than those who went on for a doctorate or master’s degree.

The survey also discovered that there were no differences in race or ethnicity for a student’s well being after college or whether the graduate had been the first in his or her family to attend college.