Pew Research Study Reveals Common Mistakes College Students Regret

Posted By Terri Williams on October 30, 2015 at 8:51 am
Pew Research Study Reveals Common Mistakes College Students Regret

For many students, college is a time of trial and error. Balancing new-found freedom, rigorous academic requirements, an active social life and, in many cases, a job, is a juggling act that’s not easy to master.

However, hindsight is 20/20, as revealed by a Pew Center Research survey in which college graduates expressed some of their biggest regrets and mistakes.  According to the survey, graduates say doing each of the following while in school would have better prepared them to get the job they wanted:

Percentage Undergraduate Activity
50% Gaining more work experience
38% Studying harder
30% Looking for work sooner
29% Choosing a different major


GoodCall spoke with a current student, a recent graduate, and a handful of experts to gain more insight into the topic.

Gaining more work experience

Gaining more work experience while in college can definitely provide a competitive advantage. Hailey Lanier, a recent graduate of the Public Relations program at Illinois State University, worked two jobs and seven internships during her college years. “When hiring entry-level employees, employers are looking for more experience than ever before,” says Lanier.

“By not having a job or internship throughout college, students are putting themselves at a disadvantage, especially since they’ll be competing for positions against students who did hold jobs or internships.” Lanier adds, “Having a job while in college, particularly in your field of study, shows employers that you have real world experience, know how to manage your time effectively, and have a good work ethic as well.”

Studying harder

Joyia Williams, a sophomore at the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Alabama, recalls that some of her freshmen peers did not return for their second year of school because they spent too much time socializing and lacked the discipline to study and make schoolwork a priority.

While some students may be partying too hard, there may also be other reasons students aren’t studying as much as they should. Chester Goad, Ed.D., a Nashville-based organizational and educational leader, says, “Many students are entering college before they’re ready. Some are feeling pressure from families and others to pursue college, but they’re pursuing someone else’s dream.”

Looking for work sooner

“Starting the job search sooner would definitely improve college graduates’ chances of landing their dream jobs,” says Val Matta, Vice President of Business Development at CareerShift.

“The fact that most college graduations occur at the same time each year means the job market is flooded with new candidates in May and June, which makes it harder for new graduates to find and get the job they want,” says Matta.  She advises students to reach out to potential employers before graduation, and build relationships that may help them receive a job offer ahead of their classmates.

Choosing a different major

Students choose majors for a variety of reasons: popularity, projected income, job rates, and ease of coursework, to name a few. According to Jennifer Lasater, Kaplan University’s Vice President of Employer and Career Services, “Students need to take the time to explore and then select programs of study that meet their interests as well as strengths, since any employer will also look for not only the hard skills, but also the soft skills needed in order to work in today’s professional society.”

Lasater explains, “By selecting a program of study, graduating and then applying for jobs where one has a true interest and strength, graduates will be more successful in their job search and have a career that meets their needs.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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