21 Fantastic High-Impact Practices that Prepare Students for the Workforce

In a previous blog post, I wrote about how you can encourage students to explore careers before they cross the graduation stage. 

I highlighted the fact that today’s employers are looking for more than just a certain degree on applicants’ resumes; a candidate’s essential skills and experiences can make or break a hiring decision. 

And students know it too. More than 85% of first-year college students say that getting a better job was a “very important” factor in their decision to attend college.

So, let’s look at campuses that have gone above and beyond in engaging students in hands-on career prep experiences. I hope they will inspire you in your own efforts and goals for supporting students’ career readiness.

Carnegie Mellon University

Berea College

  • Barea does not charge students tuition. Instead, all students are required to work a minimum of 10 hours per week in approved jobs on campus and in the community, earning a paycheck and gaining valuable work experience.
  • Students can take a for-credit course culminating in a final project in which they have to articulate why they are an excellent candidate for a job or for grad school.

Clemson University

  • Students travel and gain work experience through sponsored international internships. The university even assists students with visas, financial aid, and travel preparations.
  • Clemon’s Cooperative Education Program offers a structured research experience in which undergraduate students are matched with faculty mentors.

Connecticut College

  • The Four Years to Your Career program supports students via a first-year experience course and an assigned career support team composed of a career advisor, a professor, a staff member, and three student advisors.
  • A seven-week for-credit Career Preparation Course involves projects, networking, and polishing of resumes, cover letters, and social media profiles.
  • A Sundays with Alumni program invites alumni back to campus to connect with and mentor current students.
  • A flexible funding program hosts workshops, job shadowing, professional conferences, unpaid internships and research experiences.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

  • Students participate in a 7-week Project Based Learning semester that “creates space for team-based, real-world experiences, and a unique grading system with a focus on teamwork and experimentation allows for experiential learning rooted in faculty guidance.”
  • All first-year students engage in a Great Problems Seminar, which culminates in a poster presentation about research they’ve conducted related to a solution to a global human concern.

Bentley University

  • Career Communities “bring students together with faculty, alumni, parents and friends into learning communities that provide mentorship and connection around similar career interests and backgrounds.” Communities of interest include accounting, technology, sustainability, non-profits, biotechnology, media, and management.
  • The HIRE Education Program, a customized career development plan focuses on four key stages — Explore, Experiment, Experience, and Excel — aligned with each student’s year of study.

Drexel University

  • Drexel students who participate in Community Based Learning work on a project in the local community. Among a wide variety of experiences, past students have learned how to plant and maintain an urban green space and created life journals for hospice patients.
  • Depending on their major, students are required to complete one to three co-ops before graduation. They train with career services advisors on workplace skills, take a one-credit co-curricular course, and work with approved campus partners to gain critical workplace experiences.

Bucknell University

  • A Capitol Hill Internship Program offers students congressional experience along with a living stipend to cover the cost of food, housing, and clothing.
  • An externship program empowers students to engage in hands-on career learning by job shadowing and living with alumni during winter break.

Georgetown University

  • GU Impacts student-fellows participate in an eight-month fellowship centered on a summer project. Each fellowship is made possible in partnership with local public, private, and non-profit companies.
  • The 100 Projects for Peace initiative invites students to design their own grassroots peace project. Each semester, a committee selects a winner who is awarded $10,000 to make their project a reality.
  • The Alternative Breaks Program offers student-led, social justice-oriented trips over spring break. The program emphasizes the need for students to learn about topical social justice issues firsthand.

Designing a strong career preparation program is no easy task, but the benefits — to individual students and the institution as a whole — can be monumental. 

What awesome career programs have you brought to your campus? Connect with us on Twitter @themoderncampus.

Corinna Kraemer

About the author: Corinna Kraemer (she/her) works in ed tech and loves painting, running, and hanging out with her cat, Mr. K. She hopes her posts will finally help her dad understand what her career in student affairs is all about. Learn how we can help get your students involved.