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Young European Students Think This is What They Need to Be Successful

As students across Western Europe get ready to go back to university, find out what they think will make them successful in life…


  • Young European students think work experience is the thing most likely to make them successful
  • Since the pandemic, the financial and economic concerns of their generations drive their want to gain work experience
  • Despite these concerns and the need to find jobs, young Europeans haven’t turned their back on higher education

Among the many things Gen Z and Millennials have reconsidered in the wake of the pandemic is their relationship to education. They are now giving more thought to the balance between the cost and time of a degree versus the benefits of obtaining one. Young people are also revisiting what their career paths will hold. But is the idea that a college education is the best route to success shifting in Western Europe?

In our recent WE Education Report, we asked young European students to choose the top things they think will make them successful from a list including a variety of degree options along with more practical experience. Their top responses show that while students might be in school they see time in the workplace as the key to their futures:

European students are more likely to see work as their path to success than anything else

For two years in a row, “work experience” has been the top answer from students in Western Europe when asked what they need to be successful. In fact, when looking at the responses of 13-39-year-olds overall (not just students) the number who say that work experience is what they need to be successful has increased from 51% in 2021 to 56% this year. This increase was also seen among University students specifically, with 47% choosing work experience as a key to success in 2021 and 52% choosing it this year.  More than ever, young people see work experience as crucial leverage when they think about what will make them successful in their future career paths.

Work experience is more needed for young Europeans in times of crisis

Both Gen Z and Millennials have been badly hit by the COVID crisis and have had fewer opportunities to build up their CV with jobs, freelance gigs, and work experience. As they look at the job market, they want to differentiate themselves and be well-armed for success.

There is also a financial element to explain why Gen Z and Millennial students in Western Europe are seeking more work experience, and believe it will help them in the future. With the dire strait economic situation, and the shadow of a global recession looming over their heads, young Europeans are feeling the squeeze of the current context and becoming more financially conscious. In fact, our WE Finance/Spending Report found that young Europeans’ top financial goal this year is to save money. Young European students are attracted by work experience because it allows them to earn some much needed extra cash to support through this difficult economic context.

But young Europeans haven’t ditched higher education

Work experience may be young Europeans’ top choice when they think of what they need to be successful, but higher education remains a top priority for them. In fact, more secondary/primary students in Western Europe value “Master’s degree” for their success compared to last year.

In our WE Education Report we also asked Gen Z and Millennials students in Western Europe to tell us how valuable they think their degree will be for their future success and the majority of young Europeans now see their degree as ”extremely/very valuable,” up six points from 2021. Here again, the uncertain times that Gen Z and Millennials are going through might be key to understanding their attitude towards university degrees. In times of crisis, young European students are holding on to their degrees as a valuable guarantee and potential tool to remain attractive in the job market.

In short, the interest that young Europeans have in higher education is not going away anytime soon. Although going to university was questioned during the pandemic due to the numerous lockdowns and education going online, students across Western Europe still consider it an important step in their career path and professional success.

YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full WE Education behavioral report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Western Europe Business account? Find out more here.