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Published June 15, 2021


The keys to landing a job after college? Internships, study abroad, undergrad research and more

Study says ‘high-impact practices’ could close learning gap between U.S.-born and immigrant and international students

College students who engaged in four or more high-impact practices, such as study abroad or internships, have a 70 percent chance of enrolling in graduate school or finding a full-time job after earning a bachelor’s degree, according to a new study by UB GSE researchers.

Each additional effort either increased a student’s chance of attaining a bachelor’s degree and a full-time job by 17 percent, or made enrolling in graduate school 30 percent more likely.

Opportunities like study abroad, internships, undergraduate research, community service, first-year seminars and capstone courses have the greatest influence on college success, regardless of student or family background, reported the study published this year in the International Journal of Educational Research Open by Jaekyung Lee, professor of counseling, school and educational psychology, Namsook Kim, clinical assistant professor of educational leadership and policy, and Mengchen Su, a GSE doctoral candidate.

Their findings may help universities ensure educational equity and inclusion for marginalized students and close the learning gap between immigrant and international college students and students whose parents were born in the U.S.

“It is important that higher education institutions do not merely state they value inclusion, but provide support services that address key issues such as language difficulties, adjusting to cultural norms, financial concerns and discrimination,” said Kim.

The authors studied data about student transitions from college to career from the National Center for Education Statistics, and interviewed international and immigrant students. Their study, funded by the AccessLex Institute, Association for Institutional Research, and UB Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy, examined the performance of immigrant and international college students, and sought to understand the factors that improved or impeded their success.

They found immigrant students, who are more likely to be economically disadvantaged, take part in fewer high-impact practices. They also trail behind students with native-born parents in graduation rates, graduate school enrollment and job attainment, according to the study.

International students, however, have high graduation rates and graduate school enrollment, but they lag in finding full-time employment, despite their high levels of participation in high-impact practices.

Strict anti-immigration policies that limit employment, internship and research opportunities for international students may contribute to their difficulties in finding employment, said Lee, the lead investigator.

“Disadvantaged students are often neglected and stereotyped as not being capable of obtaining success when it is the environments that are at fault. Transforming one’s self-trajectory at the individual level is an unfair burden on students whose every day is already fraught with multi-systemic barriers,” he said. “Intentional, committed action at the institutional level is vital to students’ college readiness and success.”

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