Study Finds Liberal Arts College Alumni Feel Better Prepared for First Job

Graduates of residential liberal arts colleges give their college experience higher marks than do graduates of private or public universities, according to a new national study. Released on Nov. 15, the study was commissioned by the Annapolis Group, a consortium of leading liberal arts colleges of which Hamilton is a member. Among the categories in which alumni from these colleges feel more positive are:

  • getting a first job out of college
  • gaining admission to graduate school and
  • preparing to meet life’s challenges generally.

Conducted by higher education consulting firm Hardwick Day, the study is based on a total of 2700 telephone interviews made in 2002 and then again in the summer of 2011. It is one of only a few studies that explore the lasting effects of college in such areas as career preparation and advancement, skill development, development of personal and professional values and attitude, and community involvement.

Among the study’s findings:

  • 60 percent of liberal arts college graduates said they felt "better prepared" for life after college than students who attended other  colleges, compared to 34 percent who attended public flagship universities;
  • 76 percent of liberal arts college graduates rated their college experience highly for preparing them for their first job, compared to 66 percent who attended public flagship universities;
  • Liberal arts college graduates also are more likely to graduate in four years or less, giving them a head start on their careers and are more likely than graduates of both private and public universities to give their college a high effectiveness rating for helping them learn to write and speak effectively.
  • 75 percent of liberal arts college graduates rated their overall undergraduate experience as "excellent," compared to 53 percent for graduates of flagship public universities.

“Close relationships with fellow students and, especially, with great teachers are what drive enhanced student learning in any setting,” said Daniel Chambliss, the Eugene M. Tobin Distinguished Professor of Sociology.  “Liberal arts college specialize is creating such relationships.” The Annapolis Group survey results support Chambliss’ findings from a 10-year research project, funded by the Mellon Foundation. According to the Annapolis survey:

  • 89 percent of liberal arts college graduates reported finding a mentor while in college, compared to 66 percent for public flagship universities
  • 79 percent of liberal arts college graduates report benefitting “very much” from high-quality teaching-oriented faculty, compared to 63 percent for private universities and 40 percent for alumni of flagship public universities.

Alumni of all three types of institutions -- liberal arts colleges, private universities, and flagship public universities -- were more likely in the 2011 survey to rate their overall experience as "excellent" than in the 2002 survey, Day noted. The increase was particularly pronounced for graduates of liberal arts colleges, who went from 66 to 77 percent, and public universities, who went from 41 to 53 percent. [View complete results]

The Annapolis Group, a non-profit alliance of 130 residential liberal arts colleges, commissioned the survey to determine how its graduates perceive the effectiveness of its member institutions in comparison to others.

Contact Information

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