With thousands of colleges nationwide, how does a student decide where to apply? There are many factors to consider – location, size, residential options, student body, religious background, and academic offerings, for instance. But when a teenager looks for colleges with a specific major in mind, what has led her to select that major in the first place? As a high school student it is hard to know what one wants to study, let alone what career to pursue.
In some cases a student decides to follow in the footsteps of a parent or a favorite media character. Many students, on the other hand, seek a broad-based education without knowing how it could connect with their life and work post-graduation.
Many high school students would benefit from personalized early career counseling as they go into the college application process. There are several excellent questionnaires that guide students toward career fields based on their personalities, interests, and skills.
Additionally many web sites provide information on salary ranges, work environments, required training, and anticipated growth in each occupational field. These are wonderful tools and can be very helpful to students as they plan their next educational steps.
With these tools, imagine that Samir will learn about several jobs that he’s never heard of before, while Raga will discover that her personality is better suited for engineering than for teaching. Aneesh may realize that his chosen career path is relatively low-paying.Sam is going to save a lot of time by choosing his major from the choice of his subjects , rather than studying something else for a couple of years.
Ultimately early career counseling can guide students onto paths that are profitable for them as unique individuals, with their own personalities, talents, goals, constraints, likes and dislikes. If a student discerns during high school that she wants to become a veterinarian, she will focus her college search on institutions that will prepare her for that.
Another teen realizes he wants to become a visual artist, so he is going to apply to art schools. Others may discover that the training they would need for their chosen path is offered at community colleges, trade schools, or apprenticeship programs, and would thus decide to forego the four-year university, at least for now. Of course most teenagers are not ready to commit themselves to one specific career at this stage in their lives.
We must be wary of pressuring high school students to choose before they have the insight, experience, and exposure to do so.
Furthermore, we must avoid viewing college as simply a means to the end of a well-paying job. Particularly in this economic climate, students and, especially, parents are understandably concerned about their “return on investment.” If they are going to spend ₹ X per year on tuition and housing, is their student going to graduate with job offers that justify that expenditure? Yet college is about much more than career preparation. It is about self-discovery, development, relationships, independence, and growing in the areas of critical thinking and problem solving. The cost of college may well be “worth it,” even if the student is unemployed afterward.
So let’s keep in mind that college truly is about personal development and acquiring a broad-based education, not just about getting a high-paying job afterward. But with that thought in mind, let’s push for more and earlier career counseling for our teens.
They need exposure to the myriad of occupational options before them. They must reflect on their personalities and abilities, likes and dislikes, and how those would fit with various career paths.
If this education and self-reflection is done throughout high school, juniors will enter their college search process more focused. The chaos of choosing among thousands of colleges can be reduced when one knows what one is looking for.
Calm confidence and focused ambition will serve students very well as they apply for and begin their college degrees.