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Students Put off Graduation for Career ChoicesGraduation Delay is Not a Solution for the Employment Problems
Yang Jun-ho  |  cocal0505@hanyang.co.kr
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[325호] 승인 2015.03.02  
트위터 페이스북 미투데이 요즘 네이버 구글 msn

These days, most of the college students consider delaying graduation due to social conventions that graduation can be an obstacle to employment. However, employers say that there are not notable differences between graduates and students in recruiting new employees. The Hanyang Journal sought for the authenticity. -Ed.


Success in life is a constant gamble,” It is a remark that can frequently be heard among university students these days. This comment reveals then growing frustration among students and is said as a way to criticize most Korean students’ primary goal to attend university. What most students hope is that the money spent on their university education will allow them to earn more money over their lifetime by landing desirable jobs. Comparing university life to a gamble is quite pessimistic. However, it is partially accurate when we look at the current trend of students postponing graduation by paying for additional semesters. These university students are referred to as the “NG group,” which stands for “no graduation.” Negatively, NG can also stand for “no good.” These definitions reflect the gloomy outlook of the current situation of university students. Their main reason for delaying graduation is that they believe it will be easier for them to find a job while they still have the status of “a student” as opposed to “a graduate.” The  unpleasant  economy has over shadowing the pessimistic outlook of many university students. As a result, more and more students perceive delaying graduation as an attractive alternative to finishing college and to becoming another possible addition to the growing population of the unemployed. However, delaying graduation has become a double-edged sword and whether their justification for doing so is reasonable or not is being hotly debated.


The Current Trend of Delaying Graduation

Many people like to choose a convenient way or shortcut to get what they cannot easily acquire. Such ways exist in many places and same applies to college students who want to avoid graduating. For example, students can push back their graduation dates if they are deemed to lack certain requirements to graduate. In reality, however, they are allowed to remain in university even if they have already earned the credits to graduate. Moreover, the ways to postpone graduations vary. Some students simply register for the new semester, while others deliberately do not submit certain documents needed to qualify for graduation, such as the results from the Test of English for International Communication(TOEIC) or their graduation final paper. Although some may consider it as an educationally undesirable method, they are widely employed by students all over the university.According to a   survey conducted by The Hanyang Journal, 215 out of 350 Hanyangians answered that they thought positively about delaying graduation. To combat this growing trend, Hanyang University(HYU) in 2014 officially implemented a postponement policy, given that the number of students who delay graduation had been growing each year. Although delaying graduation might seem like a recent development, the practice actually dates back to the 1990s. Putting off graduation on a wide scale was first introduced during the Asian Economic Crisis of 1997 in an attempt to reduce the number of the jobless. Since then, the number of students who choose to remain in school has been rising every year. As a result, it is now viewed as a common practice of universities in Korea. However, the number of students who delay graduation has recently increased explosively. According to the Ministry of Education, 121 out of 141 universities have created some sort of graduation delay policy in an attempt to stop or at least to slow down the unemployment rate. In 2011, the number of students delaying their graduation increased from 8,270 to 14,965 in 2013, and the number is likely to keep growing. Moreover, in major universities such as Seoul National University and Ewha Women University, it is expected that 56.3 percent of the senior class students put off their


 graduation. This indicates that a more than average number of students will be applying for their ninth semesters even though only eight semesters are necessary to graduate. Although, many universities do not agree with this student practice and applaud government efforts to put an end to this option. Under the new 2015 university evaluation laws enforced by the government, many universities are being required to abolish graduation delaying policies. From the next semester,Ewha Womans University and Konkuk University will abolish their old graduation policies allowing students to stay longer than needed. In other words, students will be no longer able to extend their semesters. An Ewha university official said it is an appropriate decision in order to stop the unnecessary waste of time for university students. However, many students strongly disagree the policy while others argue that too many suspended students intentionally hanging around in school will lead to problems with accessibility to school facility since some areas are already overcrowded with students. Still others claim that universities that support the government measure are interested only in making good impression particularly when it comes to university evaluations. Whatever the case is, it is somewhat true that universities do not often consider the opinions of students because the postponement policy was abrogated one - sidedly with out any prior consultation.

The Necessity to Delay Graduation
Obviously, the tough job market is the biggest reason that contributed to the postponement phenomenon.   However, much more complicated problems surrounding delaying graduation exist. According to the Job Korea, a major portal site for employment surveys, 45.3 percent of the students who delayed graduation said they had done so because they believed companies discriminate against students who have graduated while 23.6 percent said they postponed graduating in order to avoid being asked why they had taken a break after graduation instead of having an immediate employment. “The top reason is that companies tend to avoid
hiring graduates who have longer ‘blank periods’ between the time of their graduation and getting a job, and companies regard them as incompetent,” opined a recent graduate. It is commonly accepted fact among university students that companies favor students who have just graduated although many official of a company’s Human resources department denied such claims. Some also point out that companies are concerned about the age of students, whereby older aged students are viewed as being a disruption to the traditional order of ranking at a company. Although the validity of this general belief is quite questionable these days, many students are still firmly tied up to this reason. Interestingly, aside from the general notion that companies are reluctant to hire recent college graduates, 46.1 percent of students who were asked in the same survey said that they were delaying graduation due to “anxiety and uncertainty about their future.” Many students who graduate are afraid that they will not automatically find their career paths. “I scored more than 950 on the TOEIC and I have a variety of internship experiences, but I still want to delay my graduation. It will make me feel safer as I’ll have more time to prepare,” a student commented. Another popular answer was mostly related to how few opportunities graduates can perceive. It is said that maintaining a student’s “identification” is important because being a current student, as opposed to a recent graduate, is thought to provide an access to more job friendly environments. “Internally or externally, the career programs the university offers are for students, and in fact, most internship programs are offered only to nongraduates. In addition, I heard that students who graduate from university, are not able to ask questions or obtain advice from their school’s career collaboration center once they are out of school,” said a recent graduate who requested anonymity from Ehwa Womans University. Other students also mentioned that by maintaining undergraduate status,students have more time to prepare. 


“Generally, there aren’t many students who graduate on time because there are many things to be prepared and to bolster, and the time they have is relatively short. Therefore, delaying graduation is necessary,” said another job seeker from Sungkyunkwan University. Furthermore, research conducted by the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education & Training Center found that those who graduate after delaying are much more likely to get a better job in terms of quality, than those who do not. It was found that 33 percent of those who procured good jobs had been temporary workers while those who did not delay graduation only made up 27 percent. Moreover, the income of graduation delayers was higer than that of non-delayers by 260,000 won. Overall, it is generally believed that, if graduation delay is any less helpful than just graduate, given that it is becoming harder to get a decent job in an even harsher job market environment, expanding semester is inevitable for most students.



Examining the Truth of Delaying Graduation

Despite the growing number of students delaying their graduation, there are many concerns that doing so is actually unnecessary, which is contrary to general belief. It appears that many students actually misunderstand the meaning of “ blank period ” of non-academic and non-career activity before they are employed. In a survey conducted by Job Korea, about 23.6 percent of students answered that they were delaying graduation to escape the “blank period” in order to make themselves appear more appealing to potential employers. The reality, however, is a different story. According to a research conducted by a headhunting company, Saramin, 52.9 percent of office workers who participated in the survey did not recommend delaying graduation. This was because employers can determine whether applicants had a blank period or not by just looking at their resumes.“We regard graduation delay as a blank period anyway,” said a consultant employee of Lotte Confectionary who added, “If students are considering delaying graduation, the blank period should be filled up with worthwhile activities such as learning something that most four years graduates would not typically have learned.” In this regard,delaying graduation seems to only serve as a subtract point if students focus only on trying to boost their TOEIC. Saramin administrator Lym Min-uk asserted that it is not important whether students have delayed their graduation or not, but what matters is how many experiences students have gained. He said, “If students are wondering about whether to delay their graduation or not, I think the first step should be to map out a specific plan.” Moreover, contrary to the common belief, there are actually many career programs and internships open to students even after they graduate from university. According to the online recruitment information posted on the Hanyang website from February 2 to 14, only one out of 62 places was limited to students who graduated while the rest of the internship recruitments were open to everyone without limitations. In fact, in some cases the limitation is also set to the graduation delayer along with graduate students. Thus, it is very hard to say that the internship are open only for non-graduates. “I think graduates are probably too embarrassed to return to school even if study programs or career consulting are available to them. There are special lectures that are always open to everyone, so there would be no problem for recent graduates to attend,” said Kim Sung-soo, an official at the Career Development Center at HYU. He added, “Without exception, graduates can join almost any career training program offered at HYU and we encourage graduates to visit.” In addition, a number of major Korean companies are actually more likely to hire students who have already graduated. In some cases, workers are sent to other regions since many companies work with different affiliates that are located outside of Seoul.Therefore, an applicant with “student” status is someone conceivable who attends school in Seoul and would thus find it very difficult to make time for the job. “It depends on which department you choose, although we do not specifically classify the students we want to hire,” said a consulting employee of Daum Kakao Corporation. Moreover, an employee of LG Electronics said, “We have many employees who graduated from university when they applied for the job. According to our employment guidelines, there are no such discriminatory criteria against graduates. We only recruit staff based on their ability.” According to the survey conducted by Saramin, about 41.5 percent of company executives said they disapprove of postponing graduation and that they believe students who do so are likely to lack in competitiveness.



Being Aware of Opportunities


Recruitment procedures have myriad problems which may make hiring a complicated process. The status quo for some companies means that they are finding it increasingly difficult to expand investments and increase their work force. According to Korea Labor Institute data, the unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 29 hit 10.9 percent in February 2014, just short of the all-time high of 11 percent recorded in January 2000. This figure excludes students, and the actual unemployment rate for newly graduated students was recorded at 32.2 percent in March of 2013. Some point out that student is struggling to find jobs due to flaws in various recruitment systems. “Many companies tend to hire fresh graduates straight out of their 4th year of university. Therefore, students who were not hired during the recruitment season in their last year may find it relatively hard to find jobs,” said Kim Sung-soo, an official of the Career Development Center. He believes that students’ own efforts will be useful and actually serve as “the key to successful employment based on one’s merits.” In addition, regardless of whether a student graduates on time or not, age is also another factor that affects successful employment. According to the online survey by Saramin, about 63.6 percent of the companies said they refused to hire someone who was over a certain age. Therefore, it is recommended that students try to begin their job-seeking efforts as soon as possible. Although students may have to lower their expectations, it is better to accept a less desirable job as their first job, in order to gain employment without any relative difficulty. According to the online survey from Saramin, 70.3 percent of the students who were employed said they were able to get a job because they had lowered their initial standards. In fact, it appears more advantages to gain work experience as early as possible since it is often possible to move onto to better positions after having already gained employment, while the opposite is less true.


Remedying the Flaws in Employment Perception


As long as unemployment remains high, the fear that students harbor about their future will continue to motivate many to delay their graduation. Thus, in order to put an end to a practice that appears to do more harm than help overall, the problem of unemployment should first be tackled by students themselves. By simply being more flexible, lowering one’s often exaggerated expectations for employment and seizing work opportunities that do exist, students can find themselves in a win-win situation; having employment with prospects of better in the future. The problem of unemployment cannot be solved by a single company. Therefore, this social dilemma should be dealt with in more practical and effective ways.








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