98 Percent of Wellesley’s 2021 Graduates Were in Jobs, Grad School, the Military, or Service within Six Months

Students seated in the audience during commencement, applauding.
Image credit: Kayana Szymczak
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Six months after graduation, 98 percent of the members of Wellesley College’s class of 2021 were employed, enrolled in graduate school, engaged in a volunteer experience, or serving in the military.

That is four percentage points higher than the class of 2020—whose members began their careers in a pandemic-affected employment landscape and amid an economic downturn—and two points higher than the class of 2019. The survey results were recently published in the Wellesley College Career Education Class of 2021 First Destination Report.

“Wellesley has consistently had a very strong showing in our first destination reports, and coming out of a pandemic, we are seeing that employers are valuing students with a strong liberal arts education in new ways,” said Wellesley College President Paula A. Johnson. “Especially now, because they know that change is the only constant, they need employees who are adaptable and are able to assess and synthesize information critically.”

Nearly 73 percent of the class of 2021 were employed six months following graduation, in fields including consulting, business, and finance; health care and life sciences; internet, software, technology, and engineering; education; and nonprofits and NGOs.

“When the great resignation happened, employers looked to recent graduates to partially fill the void and invested more heavily in early career training,” said Jennifer Pollard, executive director and associate provost of Career Education at Wellesley. “This trend has opened access for many of our students to fast-growing fields and continues to reinforce the value employers place on our students’ adaptability and eagerness to learn.”

Health care was the largest industry growth area from 2020 to 2021, and the combined STEM and health care cluster now outpaces business, consulting, and finance. Almost 34 percent of students went into STEM and health care in 2021, up from 27 percent in 2020.

“This trend is something we’ve been watching for several years and has been heightened by the pandemic,” Pollard said. “Our students are eager to engage in issues the world faces today, making STEM and health care increasingly more attractive. They see what’s going on in the world, and they want to jump in and make a difference—it’s one of the best qualities of their generation. It is so exciting to watch them enter many industries where women are largely underrepresented and look for ways to make a positive impact.”

Over 40 percent of the class of 2021 opted into a pilot alumnae mentorship program, which connected them with mentors working in their industries of interest. Participating students reported the benefits of forming these connections and drawing on the experience of the Wellesley network as they approached graduation. The highly successful program has been expanded and now matches sophomores, juniors, and seniors with alumnae mentors in mentorship affinity pods—groups based on self-identified industry interests and shared identities.

Just under a quarter of the class of 2021 enrolled in graduate programs in a variety of fields at top institutions. The majority entered degree programs in STEM and health professions, which have represented 52 percent of graduate degrees over the past six years; Wellesley consistently sends more women on to STEM Ph.D. programs than than any other liberal arts college.

Almost 99 percent of Wellesley graduates from the class of 2021, regardless of what they are pursuing, describe their outcome as an opportunity to engage in meaningful work. “I am so impressed by how well our newest graduates are doing,” Johnson said. “It speaks to the incredible student support offered across campus, our strong alumnae network, and of course, our talented, brilliant, and driven students.”