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How to tell if a college will get your student where they want to go

Students smile and pose in cap and gown at Illinois State graduation

How successful is a college at getting students where they want to go? Think about some key things when looking at colleges for your student.

Regardless of your particular list of priorities when deciding on the best college for your student, most agree on one goal—the outcome matters. You want to find a place where your student can build the knowledge and skills to thrive in the working world.

And even if post-graduate life seems a long way away, it’s never too early to think about where a path leads before stepping onto it. Here are a few important pieces of information as your college-bound child contemplates the path ahead.

Graduation rate

Perhaps the most obvious statistic to consider when thinking about college outcomes is graduation rate. But what does the term—and the corresponding number—actually mean?

When colleges talk about graduation rate, it is typically referring to the percentage of students who earn an undergraduate degree within six years of starting college.

Some degrees may take more time to complete than others, but this statistic indicates that students at the college are completing their degree in a timely fashion, which means spending less money to earn that degree and collecting a paycheck sooner.

It’s not just about great memories of tossing a cap in the air—it’s a value proposition. As you may know, the national six-year graduation rate for students who began college in 2012 was 58.3 percent.

Illinois State students pose with parents at graduation

Thinking about the destination now will help set up you and your student to celebrate success down the road.

Retention rate

While the connection between graduation rate and success for your student is a relatively straight line, one measure you might not recognize as being equally connected to timely graduation and success is retention rate.

This statistic indicates how many freshmen continue their studies as a sophomore at their chosen institution.

Why does it matter? Because remaining at a school allows a student to stay on track to graduate in an efficient and timely fashion. Not to mention it’s a good indicator of quality of life and your student’s potential happiness on campus, both of which have a major impact on their success.

As you weigh your options, consider this—the national retention rate for students who started at their college in 2016 was 61.1 percent.

Illinois State’s graduation rate is more than 10 percent higher than the national average, its retention rate is 18 percent better, and graduates earn more than $10,000 more than the national average 10 years after graduation. You can check out Illinois State’s profile and compare schools yourself.

Salary after graduation

Not everyone makes money their top priority, but for many, it’s the bottom line of bottom lines.

Your student is working to build a career that will provide them personal fulfillment as well as financial security and high quality of life. It’s important to consider if the colleges on your student’s list provide a leg up.

What is the return on investment for your student’s college degree? And how soon can you expect them to stop calling you for money?

The U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard lists data on average earnings 10 years after students start at their college of choice. This data shines a light on earning potential for fairly recent graduates establishing the early part of their careers.

College students should enjoy the journey—after all, these should be four of the best years of their lives. Still, you and your student should keep a keen eye on their destination.

Understanding important outcomes-related metrics can help you identify the best fit for your student and can ultimately lead to a better quality of life.

All national statistics are courtesy of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Peruse Illinois State’s metrics of excellence to get a snapshot of how Redbird Life might be a good fit for your student.

Related Article: How to get a jump on turning college into a career Most students attend college at least partly in an effort to prepare themselves for a successful career. Learn about resources that can give your student a leg up.

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