Common sense would lead you to believe that graduates of expensive Ivy League schools do better in life after school. We expect this when it comes to the correlation between happiness in one’s career and the college one graduated from. However, the recently published Gallup Poll (or Gallup-Purdue Index) counters that widely held belief. The survey was conducted online between February 4th and March 7th of this year. It collected responses from over 29,500 graduates. These graduates all possess bachelor’s degrees or higher. And, the poll shows that attending a less expensive school will work just as well for someone in the long run. Of course, Ivy League graduates rank better in terms of pay grade. On the other hand, student loan debt rates tend to be lower for graduates of ‘outlier’ colleges. While the type of institution matters less in terms of career success, a very small percentage of graduates, be they Ivy Leaguers or not, experience the type of educational process that Gallup associates with a great post-college job and life. Let’s take an in-depth look at the poll’s results.
Gallup Poll Reveals Surprising Life Satisfaction Rates
How engaged do you feel with your work? 39 percent of the respondents to the Gallup poll say they are genuinely invested in their careers. That’s 10 percent higher than the average for the general population. Over 80 percent of graduates say they’re doing great in some respect: some garner a sense of purpose from their jobs. Others feel financially secure. Still, others appreciate their physical health, close bonds with others, or sense of being part of a great community. Overall, only 11 percent feel happy and thriving in all five areas of their post-college life.
But, the truly surprising finding of this poll is that the above percentages don’t vary significantly by the type of school attended. In other words, an Ivy League graduate is just as likely to feel he or she is thriving as someone who attended a state or community college. Perhaps the only significant differences are those related to the size of the school: graduates who attended campuses with over 10,000 students feel slightly more satisfied with their lives after graduation. Those who attended for-profit schools feel slightly less so.
Gallup’s Poll about Ivy League Degrees Guarantee of a Higher Salary?
The answer to the above question depends on whom you ask. According to Drew Gilpin Faust, the President of Harvard University, attending a prestigious school is not about the paycheck. It’s about leading a happy, fulfilled life as the member of a respected community with lots of opportunities for growth and change. If you ask several researchers, simply attending college guarantees a higher salary. The choice of institution is far less relevant. This is not mere hearsay. It’s the conclusion that researchers Alan Krueger and Stacy Berg Dale arrived at. They compared students who chose Ivy League universities (enrolled in the class of 1976) and students who choose chose less ‘alluring’ schools. By 1995, the employment rate for graduates in the two groups was similar and both categories were earning nearly the same amount of money. On the other hand, 2002 data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that high-school graduates make half the money that college graduates earn (irrespective of the school the graduates attended).
What Kind of College Should you Choose for a Great Career?
As far as happiness, thriving, and satisfaction go, Gallup tested these notions and reached a surprising answer for those wondering what type of college to choose. If you’re looking to lead a happy post-graduation life, forget about a school’s reputation and prestige. Look at how much that school costs, first of all. Then, look at how good the teaching staff is. Finally, look at how likely that school is to produce profound learning experiences.
Attendance costs matter most, because the more expensive schools will cause students to incur higher amounts of college debt. The Gallup poll says that 2 percent of graduates with $20,000 to $40,000 in debt feel as if they’re thriving. That figure is rather worrying, given that the national college debt average stands at $29,400 for 70 percent of students with college loans.
It’s also interesting to note that only 3 percent of the college graduates polled said they had the type of college experience that would naturally lead to a great life. You may wonder to yourself what kind of experience that is. It’s all about support, life-changing experiences, and deep learning. While 63 percent of respondents say they had at least one college professor who managed to get them excited about learning, only 27 percent feel their professors cared about them as a person. A lucky 22 percent had a mentor who provided them with support in achieving their goals and dreams. Just 14 percent experienced all of the above. In terms of meaningful learning experiences, 20 to 32 percent of respondents worked hard on a semester-long project, applied their acquired knowledge during an undergraduate employment experience or were active in extracurricular activities. Only 6 percent ticked off all of the above, though.
What’s the bottom line here? Forget about the old adage that says Ivy League colleges are the only choice for those who want to succeed in life. Find a school where you’re likely to be appreciated as an individual, encouraged to grow, challenged to reevaluate conventional thinking, pushed to change, and led to pursue your dreams.