The Center for Engaged Learning periodically conducts surveys on students’ experiences in higher education and their application to students’ post-graduation lives. Our latest iteration surveyed 956 U.S. residents who were 18-34 years old and graduates of two- or four-year higher education institutions. The survey explored recent graduates’ experiences during college with the key practices for fostering engaged learning, high-impact practices (e.g., internships, study away), and mentoring. Participants also offered insight on skills they used in their day-to-day lives and whether they developed those skills in college.

While 80.4% of the recent college graduates considered their college experience somewhat or very rewarding and 83.5% indicated that, considering both the costs and benefits of their college experiences, college was “worth it,” these assessments are slightly lower than participants reported in our 2019 pre-pandemic survey.

A bar chart is titled "Overall Rating of College Experience", showing percentages for 2019 and 2024. Very rewarding: 2019 50%, 2024 41%. Somewhat rewarding: 2019 36%, 2024 39%. Slightly rewarding: 2019 10%, 2024 17%. Not at all rewarding: 2019 2%, 2024 3%.

Almost half of our 2024 participants (44.2%) graduated in 2020 or later, so it’s likely that they experienced higher education’s pivot to online or hybrid learning during their college journey, as well as other social distancing restrictions.

A bar chart titled "Was College 'Worth It'?" Showing percentages in 2019 and 2024. Definitely yes: 2019 51%, 2024 48%. Probably yes: 2019 32%, 2024 37%. Probably not: 2019 11%, 2024 11%. Definitely not: 2019 5%, 2024 6%.

While recent graduates still reported developing meaningful relationships with other students (73.3% reported developing these relationships “multiple times” in 2024, compared to 66.6% in 2019), students enrolled in the pandemic era may have found it more difficult to develop meaningful relationships with faculty or staff. In 2019, 52.0% reporting developing these relationships with faculty or staff “multiple times,” but that number drops slightly to 47.8% in 2024. In addition, 30.1% of 2024 participants reported not having a mentor during their time at college.

Peter Felten and Leo Lambert describe relationships as the “beating heart of the undergraduate experience” (2020, p. 1), and meaningful relationships support student learning and contribute to the significant outcomes of “high-impact” educational practices (Swaner and Brownell 2008; Brownell and Swaner 2010). Therefore recent graduates’ more limited opportunities to develop meaningful relationships during the pandemic might be contributing to the slight dip in how they rate the value of their college experience.

Fortunately, in the 2024 survey, more recent graduates reported encountering most of the other key practices for fostering engaged learning (Moore 2023) during their college experiences, as the table below highlights.

During your college experience, to what extent did you encounter…Multiple Times
Faculty who asked you to draw on prior knowledge when you learned new things58.9%66.8%
Feedback from faculty/staff on a submitted, final project71.8%80.8%
Feedback from faculty/staff to guide your work before you submitted a final version66.1%70.4%
Feedback from peers to guide your work before you submitted a final version58.0%63.2%
Opportunities to reflect on how the different parts of your college experience fit together55.2%54.5%
Opportunities to reflect on how what you were learning would apply to your future65.9%67.6%
Practice with real-world applications of what you were learning61.3%67.6%

Of course, I hope these rates continue to increase since embedding the six key practices across curricular and cocurricular experiences helps students develop capacities as engaged, lifelong learners.

I’ve shared other topline results from the 2024 survey on the new Surveys on Engaged and Experiential Learning section of our website. Watch the Center’s blog and 2024 survey page for additional findings from the survey in the coming weeks.


Brownel, Jayne E., and Lynn E. Swaner. 2010. Five High-Impact Practices: Research on Learning Outcomes, Completion, and Quality. Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Felten, Peter, and Leo M. Lambert. 2020. Relationship-Rich Education: How Human Connections Drive Success in College. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Moore, Jessie L. 2024. “High-Impact Undergraduate Experiences and How They Matter Now: April 2024 Survey of Recent U.S. College Graduates.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), May 28, 2024.

Moore, Jessie L. 2023. Key Practices for Fostering Engaged Learning: A Guide for Faculty and Staff. Stylus Publishing.

Swaner, Lynn E., and Jayne E. Brownell. 2008. Outcomes of High-Impact Practices for Underserved Students: A Review of the Literature. Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Jessie L. Moore is director of the Center for Engaged Learning and professor of English: Professional Writing & Rhetoric. She leads planning, implementation, and assessment of the Center’s research seminars. She is the author of Key Practices for Fostering Engaged Learning: A Guide for Faculty and Staff (Stylus Publishing, 2023) and co-editor of Cultivating Capstones: Designing High-Quality Culminating Experiences for Student Learning (with Caroline J. Ketcham and Anthony G. Weaver, Stylus, 2023), Writing Beyond the University: Preparing Lifelong Learners for Lifewide Writing (with Julia Bleakney and Paula Rosinski, CEL Open Access, 2022), Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research (with Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler and Paul Miller, CUR, 2018), Critical Transitions: Writing and the Question of Transfer (with Chris Anson, The WAC Clearinghouse and University Press of Colorado, 2016/2017), and Understanding Writing Transfer: Implications for Transformative Student Learning in Higher Education (with Randy Bass, Stylus, 2017).

How to Cite this Post

Moore, Jessie L. 2024. “Meaningful Undergraduate Experiences and How They Matter Now.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. May 28, 2024.