Complete College America Releases New Report Linking Career Choice, Guided Pathways and Early Momentum in Higher Education

By Paul Timmins and Kate Vaulter

NCDA members know the value of planful career exploration for our clients. When our clients start their career planning earlier, are supported by their communities, and are guided by career professionals, they are better prepared to make healthy career decisions.

Over the past two years, NCDA, along with several other professional associations, has been partnering with Complete College America on its “Purpose First” project. Complete College America is a national nonprofit which promotes equity of opportunity for all students to complete college degrees and credentials of purpose and value. Its new report, College, On Purpose, summarizes the work of the Purpose First project by outlining strategies that can be employed by institutions of higher education to promote student success by supporting active career exploration earlier in the student experience, connecting students with mentors through internships, and aligning career and academic interests.

At this summer’s NCDA Global Career Development conference in Houston, NCDA past president Paul Timmins will join representatives from Complete College America to discuss the Purpose First project during a breakout session on Thursday, June 27 at 3:30 p.m. All are welcome to join the conversation.


For a link to the new report and more information about Purpose First, see this press release below from Complete College America.


Contact NCDA:
Paul Timmins
NCDA President (2017-18)
Director of career services in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota

Contact CCA:
Kate Vaulter
Director of Communications



PRESS RELEASE: April 1, 2019

Complete College America Releases New Report Linking Career Choice, Guided Pathways and Early Momentum in Higher Education

New publication provides guidance, best practices for creating a Purpose First student experience at colleges and universities


Complete College America (CCA) today released a new report to guide implementation of Purpose First, the organization’s strategy that creates a “missing link” between career choice, guided pathways, and first-year momentum. The report, College, On Purpose, lays out the components of a Purpose First experience focused on helping students explore interests and careers, make informed choices and hit early benchmarks toward on-time graduation. It also features findings from a three-year demonstration project supported by Strada Education Network.  

More than half of adults would change at least one of their education decisions if they had to do it all over again and 36 percent would have chosen a different major, according to a 2017 Gallup and Strada Education Network poll. Too often, college-bound students choose from an overwhelming number of majors without a clear understanding of how those majors align with career options. These uninformed decisions can ultimately lead students to extend their time to degree, accumulate excess debt, or drop out altogether. Underrepresented students are disproportionately affected by these challenges, diminishing critical efforts to close achievement gaps. 

Building on CCA’s work focused on guided pathways and informed choice, the Purpose First strategy envisions a redesigned institutional structure that provides students with early opportunities to identify their interests, explore possible careers and review labor market data and other relevant information to inform their decision-making. College, On Purpose offers institutions best practices for successful implementation of Purpose First across five key areas: Institutional Culture; Recruiting, Admissions & Onboarding; Career Exploration; Academic Structures; and The First Year & Beyond.  

“Early momentum has been proven to dramatically increase the likelihood a student will reach graduation,” said CCA Vice President Dhanfu Elston. “Purpose First is an institution-wide effort to ensure students are supported in making informed decisions about their interests and career goals in the first year of their academic journey that put them on a path to success in college and beyond.”

“Since its inception, Complete College America has been laser-focused on advocating for better and more equitable outcomes for students,” said CCA President Yolanda Watson Spiva. “We look forward to working with institutions to implement Purpose First, creating environments where students are given the resources and opportunities to make informed choices about their future, and are equipped with the tools to help them avoid delaying or derailing their college completion goals.”

In October 2018, CCA published Shared Beliefs and Practices for Putting Purpose First in American Higher Education, a collaborative report with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and the National Career Development Association (NCDA) outlining a shared vision for incorporating early career exploration and academic planning into the student on-boarding experience. These partners also provided valuable input on integrating high impact practices across different institutional areas and roles to develop a comprehensive Purpose First strategy.

CCA released a comprehensive version of College, On Purpose that provides additional context and case studies. To download the full report and access additional Purpose First resources and materials, go to completecollege.org/purposefirst.

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