How Parents Can Help Their College-Bound Child

April 26, 2019

 Beth and her mother Rebecca both wanted the goal of graduating from college, but they had different ideas about the major and they were unsure on the type of college Beth should pursue.  Beth took the Highlands Ability Battery and found out she was a "high extrovert-specialist" with strong communication skills a gift for compassion.  Due to her life experiences, Beth wanted to pursue fashion.  Her mother wanted her to push hard and to use her gifts and college education wisely.   


Rebecca wrote to say "without the Highlands Ability Battery, Beth would not have put deep thought into options giving her the best outlet for using her strengths, serving others in need, and arriving at a best-fit career and major in clinical nutrition.  We are now screening and visiting colleges with strong programs.  My daughter has asked great questions on these visits due to the discussions, and I'm now confident she has a good picks for "reach, target, and safety" colleges.   The HAB gave us both objective, concrete information needed and I'm excited now about her decisions.  I now feel confident she will graduate with a degree that will help her be successful and find fulfillment long-term in her work."   With the cost of college today, it helps both students and parents to have guidance and objective criteria to make informed decisions.   


Students frequently have only vague ideas for the future.  Yes, some students are very aware of their strengths and they have a fit career in mind, but the majority are usually unsure between a few options, their choices is limited by their personal experiences as a teenager, or they have no idea at all.  They often are led more by family influence, what they enjoy doing, and what others consider important for them.  Often they are not aware of their natural strengths and how these can translate to career success.  Parents and career counselors can help students discriminate their best options. 


Here are some tips that will help you talk to your teenager about his or her college and career plans:


Don't rush to judgement.  It is not important that a teenager find the "one" perfect career right now.  It is more important that he or she considers a few options.  We have students evaluate 3-6 careers so they can narrow it down, and there is always a "Plan B."  


Identify their innate talents and abilities, and be able to articulate them.  As a student, your child is likely lacking experiences to identify their true strengths on their own, so we recommend taking an aptitude test.  Two of the best are the Highlands Ability Battery, which is used at Student To Career, and Johnson O'Connor, both have very high accuracy.     


Be suspicious of fast answers.  When an answer about college or career comes up too quickly, can they explain why, or where this is coming from?  Has the desire to become a doctor come from real experience (working with sick people, a love of biology, family experience) or is it prompted by the view that it's a respectable or high paying career?


Welcome complicated, half-thought-out answers  Kids usually don't have experiences to help them visualize job duties or tasks.  Be glad that you are getting something.  Try to find the source of the ideas.  When did the students get interested?  Why?


Encourage hands-on experience.  What students experience first hand will have 10-20 times the impact on them than what you tell them.  Encourage paid or volunteer work in several areas of interest and encourage them to change up jobs during high school and college.  They could also shadow a professional as a way to gain insight.  Experiences in work settings will help them learn about what they enjoy and dislike the most, and may help them understand why a field may not be a good fit.


Arrange career information interviews.  Have your student speak with relatives, neighbors, or your work colleagues about their careers to learn about what they enjoy most and their challenges.  A broader real-world view can come through LinkedIn searching.  A student or parent profile needs to be set up first.  Then search for profiles of people you can message to answer questions such as key college classes and skills to gain. 


Conduct career research.  There are many strong career research websites.  O*Net is one resource that is searchable by occupation, abilities, skills, and more.   LinkedIn searching can find real-world education, skills, and accomplishments required for specific careers. This research step and online search training is part of the Student To Career - Career Discovery Package.


Help your student pay attention to what aspect of their interests helps them feel a state of flow, or gives them the greatest fulfillment.  Then explore other ways to expand these skills or interactions.  You may find the skills are linked to key strengths in their natural aptitudes  measured in the Highlands Ability Battery, or your child's values.   Students who have actively pursued their interests have a clear advantage.  


Avoid Driving Your Own Agenda.  Many well-meaning parents suggest a particular career for their child, often driven by their own vision of success.  This prevents parents from being open to considering other careers that may better align with their child's innate talents aptitudes, interests or values.  


Seek the professional guidance of a qualified career coach is one of the greatest investments you can make.  You can help your child answer the questions of what they want to do when they grow up, what is a best major, what colleges have strong programs and graduation job placements, and also the optimal high school classes and activities to set up well.  Some parents pull back at the extra expense, but when you consider the cost between $50,000-$250,000 for a college education, career counseling can help ensure your dollars are well spent. 


Early career discovery will put your child ahead of the game.  Your child will gain clarity, motivation, and control over their destiny.   Most importantly, it can set the stage for career success and satisfaction.










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