Study Shows Graduates Delay Start of Careers

Harvard's Class of 1971 is continuing a recent trend "to engage in activities which are personally satisfying, but which may not relate to their eventual career plans," according to a report prepared by James W. Wickenden Jr., associate director of the Office for Graduate and Career Plans (OGCP).

The report, which polled male seniors last spring, shows a marked decline in student interest in teaching and volunteer work as well as in "'conventional' activities" like business and finance. Only 33 men indicated they would teach after graduation, a drop from 138 in 1969.

The number of students expecting to travel, still looking for employment or without definite plans increased to 27 per cent of the total. Students surveyed said they intended "'to subsist,' 'to relax,' and 'to grow up,'" and seemed "not as obsessed with security as were their fathers," shunning "those activities which exert an unusual amount of control over their dress, time, or lifestyle."

Graduate Enrollments

Recent classes' enrollments in graduate schools have been fairly constant, but interest in professional schools has increased while enrollment in liberal-arts graduate schools has declined. The report attributes this trend to "widespread publicity" given the well-educated unemployed, and added that it has become "increasingly difficult" for "the non-minority male with mediocre grades" to gain admission to professional school.

According to OGCP counselors, many students have trouble accepting "that most of the jobs available to them are not totally stimulating, well paying, challenging, or important." The report warns of the difficulty of the transition from student life.

To ease this transition, the report recommends "breaking the lock-step pattern of education that has kept people in school for 18 or 20 consecutive years," a clearer definition of liberal-arts education, increased part-time student employment, establishment of an OGCP "job bank" with extensive opportunity listings, and the creation of internships by large corporations in which students could try out careers without committing themselves to them.


The report cites Charles Reich's The Greening of America, but it emphasizes that certain groups, particularly black students, are "completely unaffected by this movement." "Some students can afford to get greened without paying dues to anybody," explained Alonzo D. Saunders, assistant director of the OGCP, "and others can't."

Saunders also said that, because the survey on which the study is based was conducted before graduation, "it's hard to say how many students actually do take time off and how many actually benefit from it." But he said experimentation "at least lets them see what they don't like" and mentioned a Law School program encouraging 80 of next year's entering class to take a year off before matriculation, as evidence of graduate schools' interest in their students' greening.

Comparison is Difficult

Because few other universities have offices on the scale of the OGCP. Saunders said, comparison with trends at other schools is difficult. "And if businesses did run out of one source of executives, like New England WASPs," he said, "they'd just turn to another, like the kids from Cambridge High and Latin."

Only two per cent of the Class of 1971 said they wanted blue-collar jobs. Several, however, expected to earn a living in sports fields, including two who expected to sign professional baseball contracts and a professed ski bum. Other students expected to work in harpsichord building, stained glass work, the Boston City Countil, housepainting, and "random employment to pay off Harvard debts.