What Matters Most: Engagement is the Key


The message of the recent white paper from Challenge Success, “A Fit Over Rankings: Why College Engagement Matters More than Selectivity” is not really a surprise for many of us in education—as educators, we know from observation and years of practice, that those who are more deeply engaged in what they are doing are ultimately happier, more productive, and more “successful.”

The report, based on a survey of more than 30,000 bachelor degree holders through the 2014 Gallup-Purdue findings, asks graduates about their outcomes related to purpose, as well as social, financial, community and physical indicators and found that “students who benefit the most from college are those who are the most engaged in their academics and campus communities, taking advantage of opportunities and resources their particular institution provides. Engagement is the key.”

A few highlights from the report (and please read it—it’s only about 15 pages or so).

  • Rankings are problematic: college rankings usually equate to which college are the “most famous.” They are based on data that is easy to gather such as alumni giving, graduation rate, acceptance rate, average class size rather than data that is most meaningful for college engagement.

  • Selectivity does not correlate to student learning, job satisfaction or financial success. The Gallup-Purdue survey found no relationship between type, location and selectivity of their college choice and overall well-being.

  • “Engagement in college is more important than where you attend.” There are six key factors (see list below) that have an impact on how fulfilled graduates are in the working world.

So that does this mean for our students at Head-Royce?

This is a strong data point to support the initiatives and direction of our Strategic Plan. Those who are engaged students in elementary, middle and high school will thrive in college—wherever that may be—in these same ways. As parents and teachers we can model what it means to be curious learners who are engaged in aligned extra-curricular activities and meaningful community connections. As the report notes, there are over 4,500 colleges in the US. Let’s focus on supporting our children as they discover what truly engages them in the classroom, with activities, with friends, and in the larger world. College is just one step along a more complex journey to adulthood.