Bridging the Opportunity Divide

Hoping to Make the World a Better Place?

September 19, 2014
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Hoping to Make the World a Better Place?
Going to the best school doesn't always mean success. Getty Images
Graduates of these schools feel that they have meaningful jobs.

Right now, there are scores of ambitious high schoolers who are working hard to maintain high GPAs while participating in several extracurricular activities. Their goal? To impress their dream Ivy League schools by the time college applications roll around.

Not to dash anyone’s hopes, but what these young men and women should know is that graduates from Princeton, Harvard, Yale or any of the country’s “best colleges,” don’t always have the most meaningful jobs, The Atlantic reports.

In their yearly poll, PayScale.com (an online salary, benefits and compensation information company) asked 1.4 million college alumni from more than a 1,000 colleges if they thought their jobs made the world a better place. Answers ranged from “very much so” to “my job may make the world a worse place.”

The results were pretty surprising. The poll found that only 57 percent of graduates from top-ranked Princeton felt like their jobs were meaningful, while No. 2-ranked Harvard was at 66 percent, and No. 3-ranked Yale at 65 percent, the report said.

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On the flip side, the college where the majority of alums felt like their jobs made the world a better place has an empty profile on the U.S. News and World Report ranking of top schools (which is kind of like the bible of “the best colleges” in the country every year).

At Loma Linda University, a small, private health sciences university in southern California, a whoppping 91 percent of grads feel like their jobs are meaningful. The University of Texas Medical Branch (88 percent) and Thomas Jefferson University (86 percent) round out the top three.

Why did these (relatively small) schools rank so high? According to Payscale, grads who have jobs in medical fields, social work and education find the most meaning in their work. Loma Linda University, University of Texas Medical Branch and Thomas Jefferson University all have strong nursing programs.

“Typically, the schools that see the most job meaning have majors that make the world a better place,” Katie Bardaro, PayScale lead economist, tells The Atlantic.

“The average across all included schools is 55 percent, so the top schools … are largely near or slightly above average,” she adds. “This isn’t too surprising as the main factor driving the job meaning measure is major choice and the majors that typically report the highest meaning are things like nursing, education, social work, criminal justice, theology, etc. These are not majors that are very prevalent at [top-tier private institutions].”

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