As each student’s collegiate experience is unique and individualized, so is their life after graduation. The University of California has acquired these data to help students and families understand what students do and where students go after graduation.

By: Jay Wall, Research Analyst,
UCLA Career Center

As a parent, I probably share many of the same concerns and expectations you have about your child’s college experience. Will her major lead to a well-paid job? Will he be able to repay those student loans? These are important and legitimate questions, and the UCLA Career Center is hard at work to help you and your child answer them. One way we’re approaching this is by conducting our annual First Destination Survey and publishing the results on our website.

At its heart, the First Destination Survey asks graduating students “What are you doing after graduation?” The survey results help everyone, including parents, gain a more accurate and detailed  picture of where UCLA students go after graduation and what they are doing. The Career Center historically collected postgraduate outcomes data solely for undergraduate students but starting in the 2015-16 academic year will collect data on both undergraduate and graduate students.

What is the First Destination Survey?

Before discussing the specifics of the survey, it’s helpful to provide context for why the First Destination Survey is important and why the data collected is taking center stage in the discussion of the value of higher education in America. If you heard President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address, you may recall a reference to an effort called the College Scorecard. Similarly, there has been talk in the news about pending legislation called The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act. Scorecard and Know Before You Go are similar initiatives in that they are intended to provide college applicants and their parents with more information about the “value” of a degree from a particular school or program.

With the costs of higher education escalating far faster than the rate of inflation (a general rule of thumb is that college tuition doubles every 10 years), college applicants and their parents are becoming much more vocal about questioning the return on investment of a college degree. Many of us in higher education have significant concerns about attempts to narrowly quantify the value of college education in strictly monetary terms (for example, basing success solely on salary reported six months after graduation). However, we cannot deny that both the government and the general public are hungry for data pertaining to the post-graduation destinations of college graduates.

The First Destination Survey takes approximately five minutes to complete, and provides a wealth of information about the post-graduation outcomes of Bruins. The First Destination Survey is web-based and survey invitations are emailed to all graduating undergraduates approximately four weeks prior to the end of each quarter. Students who complete the survey are eligible to be included in a number of drawings for Amazon gift cards, while students who do not reply receive multiple follow-up invitations, even after graduation. Campus research standards (overseen by the UCLA Institutional Review Boards) prohibit us from making our survey mandatory, but we consider this data to be of tremendous importance to our students and to the university and hope one day that prohibition will be lifted.

The Career Center’s First Destination Survey is the only endeavor focused on reporting the actual post-graduation status of all UCLA undergraduates regardless of school, department or major. We try to ask every graduating student whether their career or graduate school plans are firmly in place, a work-in-progress or still a mystery. No matter what the answer is or how much detail they have, we ask that they complete the survey as best they can so we can gather as much data as possible about exactly what it is that our Bruins are doing after graduation. In addition, encouraging new graduates to update their survey responses for six months after graduating ensures an even more accurate account of their true “first destination.”

Some of the specific topics explored by the First Destination Survey:

  • Salary
  • The employers most commonly cited as hiring UCLA graduates
  • Geographic destinations of students after graduation
  • The most commonly cited graduate/professional schools where Bruins continue their education
  • Admissions statistics for Bruins going on to medical school and law school
  • The number of internships each student had while enrolled as an undergraduate

The First Destination Survey and the Career Center

As valuable as the First Destination Survey data is, no single resource can guarantee fruitful career development. The First Destination Survey report should to be used in conjunction with other essential career development offerings and services made available through the Career Center. It is critical for students to understand that the role of the Career Center is to provide sound, time-tested career education rather than to simply serve as a “placement agency.” The old saying “Give a person a fish and they will eat for a day; teach a person to fish and they will eat for a lifetime” is captures how the UCLA Career Center approaches your child’s career education. Our foremost concern is preparing students to achieve their career goals now and well into their futures, even when they are years and miles away from UCLA. Not only should your sons and daughters be leveraging resources like the First Destination Survey, Handshake, and our in-house career lab/library (one of the largest in the nation with over 2,500 titles), they should also be using resources like: our internship, externship and international opportunities available through The Zone, large-scale and boutique career fairs, our credit-bearing career development course, Education 150, a host of workshops, and one-on-one career counseling.

How You Can Get Involved in the First Destination Survey Process

To discuss all of the great ways parents can be a force for good in their child’s career development is beyond the scope of this article. However, specific to this discussion, there are a couple of things you can do to help your sons and daughters have access to the best career development information possible. If your child is a prospective student, ask destination type questions when you go on tours and speak with admission representatives so the university will know that this information and these types of data are important to you. If your child is a current student, encourage them to complete the First Destination Survey when they graduate. Not only will it benefit them by contributing to a robust dataset that accurately reflects their career landscapes, it will also help current and future Bruins clarify their own career paths while providing UCLA with valuable data. It cannot be stressed enough that all parents (as well as grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, etc.) can play an important supportive role in a student’s career development process. For further reading on how you can positively influence a young Bruin’s career development, please take a moment to check out these HOTlinks listed specifically for parents at the UCLA Career Center website.

Of course, if you haven’t yet, please check out UCLA’s First Destination Survey!