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Career services programs boost college students' job prospects

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Unfortunately, recent graduates with degrees are not guaranteed jobs. According to a recent study, the unemployment rate for 2012 college graduates is 6.8 percent.

Students can avoid ending up on the wrong end of that statistic by taking full advantage of their schools' career services programs, beginning in the first semester.

"There are the seniors who come in in May, and then what I like to call the 'uber-prepared' freshman, who come in their first year and develop a four-year plan for success," says Robert Earl Jr., the director of career development at Barnard College. "And those students are very successful in figuring out what they want to do, and actually going out and making it happen."

Considering the cost of a college education, offering good career services has become an increasingly important selling tool for schools. The Princeton Review now compiles a list of the best programs around the country.

"College costs are continuing to rise, so we know that students and families have become more clear and focused about what is the value of their undergraduate degree going to earn for them, and career services is that absolute key to making it all worth it," says Princeton Review Senior Vice President Rob Franek.

At Barnard College, ranked number 11 on the list, Earl agrees.

"I tell parents, look, if your daughter comes to career development, you can turn her bedroom into any room you want, because we are going to make sure she leaves Barnard with a job opportunity," Earl says. "When I give these presentations, I speak about the return on their investment, and parents will line up to talk about the services that we offer."

A great program will include core curriculum studies on things like how to conduct a job search, craft a resume and network effectively, as well as open the door for students to put those skills to use.

"They will use it, certainly for internships and experiential learning when they are younger undergraduates and then regular career placement opportunities: career fairs, bringing career services on campus," says Franek.

"You learn great skills in the classroom, but we help you market that so you can go out and find opportunities," says Earl.

Hopefully the payoff is landing a job.

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