August 17, 2016 | By NACE Staff
Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
The career center at Ball State University has developed an early intervention program that measures students’ career clarity during freshman orientation and takes subsequent steps to help those in need of assistance find a major and choose a career. The positive results have prompted the center to develop a similar program for sophomores who are still struggling with career clarity.
Participation in the KEY Careers program is mandatory for all students participating in orientation. Students complete the pre-intervention My Vocational Situation (MVS) assessment, a Holland tool that measures career clarity.
“After that, it is up to the career center to engage them in activities and interventions that help increase their career clarity,” explains Jim McAtee, Ball State’s career center director. “On average, we have a little more than 3,000 students complete the pre-intervention MVS and about 41 percent of them complete the post-MVS.”
Students fall into one of three categories—low, average, and high.
“We have interventions for all students, but our target group is the students scoring low and average,” McAtee explains.
Students are engaged via e-mail, phone calls, special events, and online career development modules. KEY Careers program events introduce students to career development concepts in a fun environment and establishes relationships between students and career center staff. Meanwhile, the career development modules lead students through a series of self-exploration, and major and career research, always pushing them to meet with their career coaches in the career center.
On average, about 44 percent of students completing both the pre- and post-MVS score low and average on the pre-MVS. Of these students, approximately 41 percent of them increase a career clarity category, either from low to average, low to high, or average to high.
In addition, the four-year graduation rate for students who participated in the KEY Careers program as freshmen in 2011 was 15.4 percent higher than non-participants.
“The program has exceeded our expectations,” McAtee says. “KEY Career participants constantly achieve higher retention, persistence, and four-year graduation rates than non-participants. It is important to note that this program focuses on students who have a low or average career clarity score, and, therefore, are more at risk to stop-out, drop-out, and not graduate in four years, which makes the results even more substantive.”
Based on the success of the program, the career center developed Key Careers 2.0, which helps those students who may not have fully engaged during their freshmen year, or did engage and are still unclear and find themselves in their sophomore year feeling unsure of their path to graduation and employment.
Staff members use the MapWorks software program to identify students who are feeling unsure of their major and career path, and then proactively reach out to these students to meet with their career coach and engage in career center programming.
“If we can decrease the number of students who stop out or drop out, or change majors too many times, we can impact four-year graduation rates,” McAtee says. “This part of the program can offer even more one-one-one assistance as the target population is much smaller than the freshman population.”
He offers several recommendations for developing an early intervention program similar to Ball State’s KEY Careers program:
“Finally, we found that well-trained student peer coaches reaching out to freshmen works wonderfully,” McAtee adds. “It is easier to get freshmen to participate in programming that is recommended by their peers.”
Percent of institutions conducting First-Destination Surveys
Median number of professional staff
Percent of career centers with employer partnership programs
Percent of staff time spent student-facing
2021-22 Career Services Benchmarks Survey