Many or all companies we feature compensate us. Compensation and editorial
research influence how products appear on a page.
Personal Finance Reports

Study: Students Lose Confidence in Career Outlooks as They Progress Through College

While the cost of college is disapproved by most, if not all, the purpose of higher education is an entirely different debate to grapple with.

Is the point of college to experience new social settings and meet friends that will become companions for life? Or to push young students out of their comfort zone so that they can fully uncover who they are and what they want to do?

More rigidly speaking, is the purpose of higher education in its name? To become as educated as possible in a particular subject so a graduate can go on to pursue greatness in a specific field? Perhaps college is for establishing a network of connections so that getting hired after leaving campus is less challenging.

Throughout all these proposed purposes, the common denominator is that those years in college, in one way or another, are meant to grow students so that by the time they receive their diplomas, they are more prepared to face the challenges of the “real world” than they were as freshmen.

And according to a new College Pulse survey of 7,749 college students, LendEDU found that undergraduates do the exact opposite: as they move through college and get closer to graduating, they lose confidence in their career outlook.

Complete Data & Analysis

36% of Seniors Don’t Feel Prepared For Their Career, Compared to 20% of Freshmen

As the table illustrates, college students steadily lose confidence in their future careers as they inch closer to receiving their diplomas. 20 percent of undergraduate freshmen in the Class of 2022 lack confidence in their post-grad future. Comparatively, 36 percent of college seniors in the Class of 2019 feel the same way.

Further, when the statistics are evaluated in a broader sense they are still disheartening. Less than half of all college students, 49 percent, have confidence in their careers after leaving campus, while 29 percent do not and 22 percent were not certain either way.

If tables are not your thing, here is a more visual breakdown of the data:

The purple line in the graph above further supports that college students are increasingly losing confidence in life after graduation as they move closer to said accomplishment.

Why is This Happening?

Why might the data be behaving in this incredibly consistent way? For starters, it is natural for undergraduates to become more insecure about their life after graduation as they evolve from freshmen to seniors. As the graduation countdown clock ticks closer to zero, students think more and more about the “real world” and fear can kick in if the career map looks barren.

But of course, this all derives from the underlying issue: Are colleges in the U.S. doing enough to prepare their student bodies for the working world, and not just focusing in on test scores and bell curves?

How Colleges Can Help Fix the Problem

What can higher education institutions spend more time on to help make sure undergraduates, especially upperclassmen, have confidence heading into life after college?

There are a few of things that immediately come to mind. First, more colleges and universities should have more frequent and mandatory courses that solely aim to prepare students for post-grad life. Curriculum could include work-related things like how to create a resume that will stand out and how to effectively network in your desired field.

Also, schools could more frequently include internships and work-study programs into their coursework that simultaneously earn the student college credit and valuable experience.

Second, in addition to more career-orientated coursework, higher education institutions should also provide similar resources that will help prepare students for the “real world” on a broader scale. Classes could include things like how to set a budget, how to file your taxes, how to properly use credit cards, and how to save money.

Many schools already offer this, but on a limited basis; making it mandatory, more frequent, and counting it for credit would make this type of coursework more useful. While a lot of this may not directly impact a student’s career path, it can supply him or her with the confidence they need to handle the challenges of life after college.

Third and finally, college career centers should be more proactive and direct in aiding their student bodies. While the vast majority of colleges have a career center, many go untapped by students as the undergraduate usually must make the first move and get to the career center. Career services could outreach directly to students, make job fairs mandatory, or provide credit for more active use of a college’s career resources.

While there will always be uncertainty amongst college graduates heading into the working world for the first time, U.S. colleges and universities can do more to help and should make use of a student’s tuition by being more involved in his or her career planning.

A School-by-School Breakdown

Below you will find a breakdown to this single survey question according to participating institutions. For a college or university to be included, they needed to have a minimum of 30 students answer the question.


All of the data that can be found within this report derives from a single source, College Pulse. College Pulse, an online survey and research platform focused on the college demographic, collected responses from 7,749 college students who are currently enrolled full-time in four-year degree programs for the following question: “Do you think that college is sufficiently preparing you or your future career?”

The initial sample was drawn from College Pulse’s Undergraduate Student Panel that includes over 235,000 verified students representing more than 200 different four-year colleges and universities in all 50 states. College Pulse then applied a post-stratification adjustment by using demographic distributions from the 2017 Current Population Survey to account for non-response bias. The samples’ weights were rebalanced based on age race, ethnicity, and gender with an iterative proportional fitting process.

While the overall number of respondents was 7,749, the school-by-school breakdown featured in this study did not have as many respondents. Schools were not included in the specific breakdown if they had less than 30 unique students answer the question.

This particular survey question began collecting responses on December 5th, 2018 and LendEDU pulled the data on March 15th, 2019. All figures listed in the report derive from simple division against the overall number of responses for each section.

See more of LendEDU’s Research