Almost half of students have started job-hunting by the end of their first year of university, according to research.
It reveals that looking for work is no longer done in the last few months of a degree course, with the vast majority of undergraduates beginning their search at least a year before graduation.
The study, by High Fliers Research, also shows that final-year university students are making 7.5 job applications on average - an all-time high.
And it indicates that record numbers of students are landing job offers before finishing their degrees.
The study is based on a survey of more than 18,000 students, studying at 30 leading universities, who are due to graduate this summer.
The findings show that three-quarters of those surveyed (75%) started researching their career options before the start of their final year at university, compared to 61% in 2010 and 57% in 2008.
Of those who began their job hunt early, a quarter (25%) started looking in the first year of the degree, and a further fifth (20%) were searching before they started their course.
In total, the students who took part in the poll have collectively made 463,000 job applications this year, up from 257,000 made by those who graduated in 2010.
Around one in four of those who had submitted applications by the time the survey was carried out in March have received definite job offers, the study shows. It adds that this is the fourth year running that the success rate for applications has increased.
Overall, a quarter (25%) of the students surveyed said that they expect to start a full-time graduate job as soon as they finish their studies. A further 17% said that they will be looking for work when they graduate, while 3% plan on running their own business. Around in one in eight (12%) said that they have "no definite plans".
On average, new graduates expect a starting salary of £23,000, the survey found, while London is still the place that students would prefer to work.
Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research said: "Our latest research confirms just how dramatically the process of getting a graduate job has changed over the last five years.
"Finding a first graduate job for after university is no longer something that students do in their final few months of study - nearly half of those graduating this summer from the 'Class of 2014' had started researching their career options by the end of their first year at university and record numbers of students made their job applications to employers up to a year before graduation."
Dom Anderson, vice president (society and citizenship), of the National Union of Students (NUS), said: "It's certainly good news that there are signs of recovery in the graduate job market but assuming that everything is now rosy for all study-leavers would be wrong.
"A rise in graduate jobs would not mean that the wider and more pressing issue of youth unemployment will just disappear.
"It should be a wake-up call to politicians and employers that just a quarter of graduates are optimistic about their job prospects. The experience of graduates also varies significantly across universities, with students from traditional red-brick institutions still faring much better in the graduate job market than those from other institutions considered to be 'less prestigious'.
"Competition for jobs is now incredibly high, which is why many students are applying for jobs earlier.
"There needs to be a greater investment in careers guidance right from school through to leaving, to ensure that students are able to make informed, meaningful decisions about their career choices."