New report findings indicate that six college experiences are strongly linked to time-to-degree and post-graduation success, Gallup reports.

The ‘big six’

Researchers found that six elements of an undergraduate experience had a significant effect on a students’ post-graduation success:

  1. A professor who made them excited to learn;
  2. A professor who cared about them as individuals;
  3. A mentor who pushed students to reach their goals;
  4. Working on a long-term project;
  5. Completing a job or internship related to classroom lessons;
  6. Being engaged in extracurricular activities and groups.

Just 3% of students said they “strongly agree” they had all six experiences that the researchers say have a “stronger relationship to long-term life outcomes … than the type of school these graduates attended.”

The big six are also connected to time-to-completion: 75% of graduates who “strongly agreed” they experienced all six finished their degrees in four years—while that rate fell to just 61% for respondents who reported experiencing none.

Simply getting a degree is not enough.


Methodology. The Gallup-Purdue index, a research effort among Gallup, Purdue University, and the Lumina Foundation focuses on studying the connection between undergraduate experience and real-world success. For this report, researchers measured how engaged respondents were in their work, as well as their community, physical, financial, and social well-being.