When visiting a college or speaking to an admissions rep, parents and students ask many questions: “Will the college cater to my child’s dietary needs?” “What’s the student-to-faculty ratio?” “How many students go on to prestigious graduate schools?” One question most parents and students don’t think to ask is, “How good is the college career center?” Career centers on campus are one of the more under-utilized resources offered by colleges. Used right, they can make the difference between an education that pays off vs. one that doesn’t.
Career Centers Can Help in Many Ways
- Career centers aren’t just for jobs after college: Students should start visiting a college’s career office early during their college career. They can begin as soon as freshman year. These centers help students learn about internships during college and job opportunities for students from companies in the area. They can also take career interest inventories to explore what kind of careers might be best for them. That information can help students pick the right major.
- Career centers can be great places to build relationships: One of the great lessons of life is that “it ain’t what you know, it’s who you know.” Building relationships with people at the career office and with potential employers in the region can pay off big time after college. When staff think about who to suggest for a job opening, they are much more likely to think of someone they already know. Many career centers also connect students with alumni who can be a great resource when applying for jobs.
- Career centers can be a resource for any job search: Whether you’re applying for work on-campus or off, whether it’s a job or a research assistantship, you’ll need a great résumé and cover letter. You’ll also need help thinking through your skills and qualifications. Career centers can help with all of these things.
- Career centers can help you find a graduate school that fits your goals: Many college career offices will also help students find a graduate program that suits their interests and goals. Nationwide about 15% of college undergraduates go on to graduate school. If you might be in that category, this is a great reason to visit!
Questions To Ask on a Tour
In speaking to a college admissions counselor, or when visiting a college, here are some great questions to ask:
- What services does the career center offer? Services offered by career services departments can vary widely. Some provide access to internships, career counseling, tools, and have deep lists of regional employers with whom they work. The University of Massachusetts, Amherst Career Center, for example, offers a comprehensive set of services: tools for interest and aptitude exploration, access to internships, and career advisers who work with students on good prospective careers, employment skills, interviewing technique and dress code.
- How proactive are they? Career services offices at some schools offer seminars, webinars, talks from local companies, and many other events to draw in and engage students. The University of Illinois’ Career Center, for example, offers activities many days each semester.
- How good is the career center website? Some university career services offices have websites that offer many services online: online interviews, personal statement reviews, and other tools. For example, Pennsylvania State University’s Career Services department allows students to have recorded mock interviews and provides feedback that helps students learn how to interview effectively for job opportunities effectively.
- What kind of corporate partnerships does the career center have? Some career services offices make a high priority of developing deep corporate partnerships to help students land great jobs after college. Texas A&M University, for example, has many corporate partners who work closely with the Career Center to hire students.
Finding a university with a great career center can be an immense help in landing a career-track job after college. Given how expensive college is, that can make a huge difference.