University News

One-third plan further education after graduation

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Just over 35 percent of undergraduates plan to attend medical, law, business or graduate school immediately following graduation, according to last month’s Herald poll. About one-fourth of current students — 23.9 percent — indicated they plan to take up jobs after graduation, and 7.6 percent indicated they will be participating in service programs such as Teach for America and the Peace Corps. More than one-fourth of undergraduates are still unsure about their plans.

According to data collected by the Career Development Center, 56 percent of the class of 2009 were employed as of April 2010, while 27 percent of that class told the CDC they were enrolled in full-time education programs.

The Herald poll results for this question showed no statistically significant differences across grade level.

Because students usually join service programs for a limited time, many plan to continue on to further education or employment after their one- or two-year commitments end.

Service programs provide “structured opportunities that are attractive to a lot of students,” said Andrew Simmons, director of the CDC, adding that these programs do not require the same “amount of legwork” as looking for other employment opportunities and do not shoulder students with the burden of graduate school tuition.

Participating in service programs also helps students applying to medical and law schools, he said.

“Law schools don’t take people straight out of college. They want to see more experienced people … so it’s a win-win situation,” said Harrison Stark ’11, a BlogDailyHerald contributor who will be working for Teach for America this year.

According to data collected by the CDC, 306 Brown students applied to enter law school in fall 2009 and 264 were accepted. But of those accepted, 85.3 percent took one or more years off between college and law school.

Evelyn Limon ’11 will teach at the MATCH Charter Public School in Boston next year before attending law school. She wanted to do something she was passionate about before beginning law school and starting a career, she said.

“I don’t know if, law school-wise, it will be a benefit to my application,” she said. “It’s more an internal desire, feeling like I’m doing something worthwhile — especially because law has a lot of negative connotations.”

Participation in such service programs has increased nationwide. According to the New York Times, in light of the recent economic downturn, the number of applicants for Teach for America has increased by 32 percent over the last year and AmeriCorps applications nearly tripled in 2009.

Half of last year’s graduating class who took up jobs went into the non-profit or government sector, Simmons said, adding that the percentage was significantly higher at Brown than at most other institutions. Education was the most popular field that students entered and was the second most popular field for graduate study, after engineering.

The number of students who reported they will be working after graduation increased this year, and employment numbers for the classes of 2008 and 2009, who graduated during the recession period, were also “pretty consistent,” Simmons said.

Roger Nozaki MAT’89, director of the Swearer Center for Public Service and associate dean of the College, credited the interest in service programs to the philanthropic culture at Brown. Last academic year, 55 percent of students were engaged in some form of community service, he said.

“National service was a big part of (President Barack Obama’s) campaign. He talked about making it cool again,” Nozaki said.

Service programs are valuable, because students are “thrown into work” and have to “get on their feet and learn a lot in a short period of time,” he added. The Swearer Center has been working with the CDC and the Curricular Resource Center to promote “careers in the common good,” he said.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a continuing resolution that includes cuts in all funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which includes AmeriCorps. If passed by the Senate, these cuts would have a “tremendous impact” on students’ decisions to join such programs, Nozaki said. But Simmons said such reductions are unlikely to be made.

According to the Herald poll, 4.5 percent of males stated they plan to join service programs compared to 10 percent of females. The Herald poll also showed gender divides among students who plan to work after graduation — 26.3 percent of males compared to 21.8 percent of females — and students who are unsure — 25.1 percent of males and 29.9 percent of females.

Staying in school

Arune Gulati ’11 will be attending Penn’s School of Medicine this fall. “I personally felt I would lose my track, my drive” by not continuing directly to medical school, he said. “I need to keep myself motivated and interested and a university setting would do that for me.”

Of the class of 2009, 167 undergraduates applied to medical school and 132 were accepted, according to data collected by the CDC. Thirty percent of students from the classes of 2005 to 2009 who matriculated to medical school went straight to medical school, while 37 percent took one year off and 33 percent took two or more years off.

Jeremy Feigenbaum ’11, who will be attending Harvard Law School upon graduation, said it was not worth the time and effort to enter the job application process.

“The benefit to taking a year in between is additional work experience. … But Brown prepared me well for law school,” he said.

“From what I’ve seen of the law school process, they definitely favor people who have taken time off and done real world experience — the Harvard dean that interviewed me even said that to me,” said Sara Luxenberg ’11, a former Herald features editor who will also be attending Harvard Law School next year. “But there are definitely some people who go straight.”

“It’s a privilege to be able to study something — I couldn’t turn that opportunity down,” said Miriam Joelson ’11, who plans to earn a master’s degree in education at Oxford University. She said while she recognizes the importance of getting out of the “academic bubble” and gaining work experience, she would rather do so after earning her degree, as the available job opportunities would be more interesting.

But Simmons said it is not surprising most students are still unsure about their post-graduation plans, as seniors are “still working it out until graduation.”

Methodology

Written questionnaires were administered to 972 undergraduates March 14–16 in the lobby of J. Walter Wilson and the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center during the day and the Sciences Library at night. The poll has a 2.9 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. The margin of error is 4.4 percent for the subset of males, 3.8 percent for females, 12.9 percent for transfer students, 3.0 percent for non-transfers, 6.1 percent for seniors, 3.4 percent for non-seniors, 5.6 percent for first-year students and 3.4 percent for non-first-years.

The sample polled was demographically similar to the Brown undergraduate population as a whole. The sample was 44.3 percent male and 55.7 percent female. First-years made up 26.6 percent of the sample, 26.2 percent were sophomores, 24.1 percent were juniors and 23.1 percent were seniors. Of those polled, 5.2 percent of respondents identified themselves as being transfer students. Statistical significance was established at the 0.05 level.

Senior Editor Julien Ouellet ’12, News Editors Alex Bell ’13 and Nicole Boucher ’13 and Senior Staff Writers Greg Jordan-Detamore ’14 and Lindor Qunaj ’13 coordinated the poll. Herald section editors, senior staff writers and other staff members conducted the poll.