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College Graduates’ Expectations vs. Realities

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College Graduates’ Expectations Vs. Realities

Every year, Accenture conducts a College Graduate Employment Survey, which examines the expectations of soon-to-be college graduates versus the realities of graduates from the two previous years. It turns out that unfortunately, for many new graduates, their expectations related to education, skills, finding a job, salary, debt, and living arrangements are way too optimistic.


Expectations of the Working World—Class of 2014:

  • 85% expect to find employment in their chosen field.
  • 80% expect their first employer to provide a formal training program.
  • 69% expect to find a job in the first 6 months after graduation.

Realities of the Working World—Classes of 2012 and 2013:

  • 67% are working in their chosen field.
  • 48% received training from their first employer.
  • 42% found a job in the first 6 months after graduating.



  • 81% expect to earn more than 25,000 a year.
  • 33% are willing to compromise on salary.


  • 41% are earning 25,000 or less.
  • 43% were willing to compromise on salary.



  • 62% of 2014 grads plan to live on their own or with friends.
  • 37% plan to obtain health insurance from their employer.


  • 42% of 2012/2013 grads are living at home.
  • 52% are on parents’ health insurance.

What it Means for You

While some of this data on expectations versus realities doesn’t correlate properly (62% of 2014 grads plan to live with their friends, and 42% of 2012/2013 grads are living at home. But this means that 38% of 2014 grads plan on living at home—only 4 percentage points lower than reality), it is clear that new college graduates generally have higher expectations about the working world, especially in regards to employment and salary.

What does this mean for new graduates?

For many, college major, personality, and work experience play a large role in living up to expectations. It is true that if you major business or engineering, your chances of employment and competitive salary may be greater than the chances of a graduate with an art history or literature degree. In the end, all graduates need to remember to be flexible, open-minded, and eager to learn.

Post-graduation life is a scary time, and one of the biggest, most challenging transitions a young person will ever go through. New graduates will eventually reach their goals and expectations—just maybe not in one or two years. Don’t forget that there are many, many years to work towards your expectations and that challenges will only result in resilience.

See the Accenture Infographic here.

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