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What college students are after and why

Publication Authors: 
Anne Colby, Heather Malin, and Emily Morton
Publication Year: 
In press
Publication Journal: 
Journal of College and Character

Public discourse often frames the value of undergraduate education in financial terms – credentialing and increased earning power. Students must prepare to be self-supporting, but are financial prospects their only important goals? We asked 1,500 students from 11 US colleges to write about their goals, the reasons their goals are important, and how they are pursuing those goals. Most articulated goals of self-actualization, meaning, and contribution to their chosen fields and to the common good. Almost all reported that they are actively pursuing their goals, including through academic and other programs provided by their colleges. By building on these aspirations and students' motivation in pursuing them, colleges can help students engage more fully with their education and more effectively prepare them for lives of meaning and purpose.