Involvement in college matters.
Detailed here is a research study conducted in the Center for the Study of Student Life at The Ohio State University regarding the impact that student involvement in co-curricular activities outside of the classroom has on career outcomes.
Background and Summary
Student involvement in co-curricular experiences (e.g., student organizations, community service or service-learning, sorority and fraternity life, student employment, etc.) is associated with positive outcomes in much of the higher education and student affairs literature. For example, studies have shown that college student involvement is positively related to academic performance, cognitive development, well-being, leadership and multicultural awareness.
However, involvement has yet to be directly linked to career outcomes. In this study, a sample of employers reviewed fake resumes of undergraduate students that varied only in the level of co-curricular involvement.
Employers rated the students that had been at least minimally involved in co-curricular activities as more hireable than those who were not involved at all. Employers rated highly-involved students as more career ready than minimally-involved or uninvolved students.
The research team developed resumes portraying undergraduate students with varying levels of involvement; uninvolved (no involvement), moderately-involved (minimal involvement) and highly-involved (a great deal of involvement). The moderately-involved and highly-involved resumes included a section titled “Campus Involvement”, which contained details about the students’ co-curricular experiences. The uninvolved resume did not include an involvement section, but spacing was altered so that this exclusion did not cause a noticeable amount of blank space.
The minimally-involved, or moderately-involved, resume had minimal co-curricular involvement. The student that this resume portrayed participated as a member of a service fraternity for one academic year, with 20 community service hours each semester, and was a member of a campus activities planning organization for one academic year.
The highly-involved resume, or the resume with the most extensive involvement, included participation in the same service fraternity and campus activities organization, but also included an honor fraternity. In addition to a third co-curricular activity, the extent of involvement also increased for each of the activities on the highly-involved resume, to display that the student played a more active role in these groups.
Among the employers, there was a wide range of organizational sizes as well as sectors (e.g., private sector, public sector/government, non-profit). Each employer was randomly assigned one of the fake resumes, meaning that the campus involvement section looked different for each employer depending on the resume that they saw. Once employers reviewed the resume, they answered a series of survey questions, rating the student on career readiness and hireability.
Career readiness was five out of the seven competencies, or traits, outlined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE): critical thinking, communication, teamwork, leadership and professionalism. Employers were asked to rate the resumes via 7-point Likert scales on these five competencies. For example, an employer might be asked “How professional does the applicant appear to be, based on the resume?” to which they would respond anywhere from 1 (not at all professional) to 7 (very professional).
Hireability was measured with five questions about the potential hire of the individual at the employer’s organization. Questions that contributed to the hireability of the candidate addressed how positively the employer viewed the applicant, how well the applicant would fit in at the employer’s organization and the likelihood of the applicant being invited to complete phone and in-person interviews based on the resume content. Employers were also asked if they would consider hiring the applicant to which they responded “yes”, “no” or “maybe”.
Employers rated the students who were at least minimally-involved as significantly more hireable than those who were not involved at all. Employers also rated highly-involved students as significantly more career ready than uninvolved or minimally-involved students. These findings imply that any type of co-curricular involvement in college is beneficial to students’ career aspirations, and that a deeper level of involvement is noticed and rewarded by employers.
Similarly, results from the 2018-2019 Ohio State Graduation Survey found that students who were involved in at least one co-curricular activity were:
- 2.1 times more likely to be satisfied with their overall experience at Ohio State
- 1.8 times more likely to have a job offer at the time of graduation
- 1.7 times more likely to express interest in attending graduate or professional school
than students who were not involved in any co-curricular activities.
Involvement in college matters. The results from this work on co-curricular involvement and the Graduation Survey outline the importance of getting involved outside of the classroom. Participating in co-curricular activities in college benefits students in several ways personally and professionally. An important factor to take into consideration regarding involvement is that students do not necessarily have to join a service fraternity or serve as the Vice President in a campus activities organization to be considered career ready or hireable. The skills and experience gained in a variety of organizations and roles is what employees valued. The takeaway is that involvement has a positive effect on employers’ perceptions.
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