choosing a major

Choosing a Major, Picking a Career, Understanding Yourself: We Have a Tool for That

At some point, almost everyone struggles with these: choosing a major, picking a career, and understanding yourself.

How many of us picked a college major to follow a friend or because it sounded easy/fun, only to later discover it wasn’t the right fit for us when we graduated?

Is there a way to provide a foundation of knowledge to our kids as they prepare to make better choices about life after high school? Yes.

These powerful ideas led At The Core founder Beth Probst to develop Guided Self Assessment as a tool to give students foundational insight about themselves that will serve them well now and into the future.

We’ve received some great questions from families about Guided Self Assessment. We thought we’d take this opportunity to share the answers with you too.

What is Guided Self Assessment?

It’s an interview-based process designed to support a student to consider their strongest personal traits, values, preferences, strengths, skills and more. Each assessment is guided by an At The Core facilitator and includes in-depth analysis of the student’s input.

The results (including suggestions for career considerations and personal improvement) are shared with the parents and student. The process culminates with the student and facilitator beginning career exploration and research. Students will learn how to take specific actions to investigate careers and feel more confident to take the next steps (college, career) with this knowledge in hand.

Most families consider Guided Self Assessment a more practical alternative to online inventories and career quizzes.

Why does my student need Guided Self Assessment?

During our college planning programs for families, we ask, “Why does anyone go to college?” The answers can range from football games to getting away from home to learning how to do the laundry. But the most common answer we get is “to get a better job.” Isn’t that what it’s all about at the end of the day? The career the student wants is one they couldn’t have with only a high school diploma.

The cost of college today (roughly averaging $26,000/year for a state school) is too steep to gamble with unknowns. Bouncing from major to major can lead to extra semesters or years of school. You are probably planning for just four. The official four-year graduation rate for students attending public colleges and universities is 33.3%. For most families, extra years are just too much of an unexpected financial burden.

Guided Self Assessment can give students confidence and clarity to make better choices, ones based on knowledge of their strongest personal traits, strengths, skills, values, challenges, and preferences. We’d like to increase their odds of graduating on time and within budget!

Schedule your 30-minute free family meeting to learn if Guided Self Assessment is right for your child.

What problems can Guided Self Assessment address?

There are a lot of options and “moving parts” in high school and college. The knowledge about themselves gained from the Guided Self Assessment will help them choose electives in high school, choose opportunities (camps, volunteering, work) to explore, pick a college that fits, identify a major, and target a career to pursue after college.

As adults, we often use knowledge of ourselves to make choices—which volunteer opportunity matches our interests, which work project appeals to our skills, which life choice matches our values. Students usually don’t take the time to think about who they are. They keep their head down while they tackle the next daily task—that next homework assignment, sporting event, or outing with friends.

In the career exploration section of the process (after the family meeting), we’ll also help the student understand and conduct an informational interview. This valuable skill will help them dig deeper into careers of interest we’ve identified in our work together.

Guided Self Assessment is truly the gift of time. It is a dedicated effort to reflect and walk through this deep “at the core” thinking guided by a trusted resource. Research has shown that individuals who choose majors and careers that are closely aligned with their interests, skills, values and personality tend to be more satisfied in their careers and enjoy greater career success.

Do you have some kind of magic wand for a quick answer?

We wish! But here’s the thing. Speed is not our goal. Those who are hoping to find the answers in a quick 40 question online quiz will probably be left with more questions than answers. Our process is built to take time (over 8-10 weeks). Guided Self Assessment is a verbal journey. We INTEND for this process to take time. There is VALUE in consideration and mindfulness.

What experience/training do the facilitators have?

Our team of experienced facilitators have a wide range of valuable experiences and skills that make them perfect for guiding the students through these conversations. First and foremost, all have extensive training in the exclusive Guided Self Assessment process. They are also excellent communicators and interviewers and are dedicated to supporting teens and families at this critical time of life.

We are lucky to have facilitators who also are or were educators, higher education professionals, career coaches and advisors, human resources professionals, and experienced counselors. When a student is scheduled for the Guided Self Assessment process, they are carefully paired with a facilitator who will make the student feel comfortable.

My child says they know what they want to do, but I’m having doubts about whether it is a good fit for them.

We often hear that. It’s tricky because as adults, we have more job knowledge and may see a mismatch our kids don’t see. Sometimes students grasp at a job they know (maybe the job of a family member) and cling to that future career without really thinking about if it is a fit for them.

As a parent, you just want to make sure they are thinking it through. Who else knows your student better than you, right?!

Guided Self Assessment can both evaluate the student’s choice and widen the range of options they can consider. Both outcomes create a more confident decision made in the end.

Schedule your 30-minute free family meeting to learn if Guided Self Assessment is right for your child.

When is the best time to do this?

One of the best times for Guided Self Assessment is in 10th or 11th grade. Freshmen simply have not amassed enough experiences. Sophomores in their second semester and juniors are in the best position to consider their experiences and use this new knowledge to explore what’s ahead.

We have also helped seniors and college students discover their path. Guided Self Assessment can be an extremely important tool at this point in their lives as well.

Where do the interviews take place?

The student and the facilitator drive the process and decide on a public location, like a coffee shop. The process calls for a comfortable setting where you might have a conversation over coffee (or a smoothie!) with a friend. In addition, we have served families nationwide for many years (even pre-COVID) and are very experienced with virtual meetings.

These sessions can be either face-to-face, virtual, or a hybrid of the two for our Columbus families. For our remote students, we use online video technology for interviews and family meetings. We have some limited in-person availability in Cincinnati and Michigan as well. Note: we always do our best to accommodate in-person location requests; however, unforeseen circumstances may arise that require some flexibility and/or a virtual meeting.

How does the process work? What is the student’s time commitment? How long does the process take?

Students and facilitators meet for five one-hour, one-on-one casual interviews over a period of 2-3 weeks. Students will have a bit of minor homework between each meeting to keep them connected to the process.

After the interviews, our team analyzes the student’s input, making connections and reasonable conclusions, and building a report/findings and materials to share. (And we mean “team”—our facilitators collaborate to discuss every student.)

Next, the family sits down with the facilitator to review the report which includes all of the student’s self assessment details, a list of potential careers to explore, and a customized set of next steps. The family meeting takes about 1 ½ to 2 hours.

How do we match up all this knowledge with a career and a college major?

We will guide you through the analytical flow from strengths/interests to potential careers and then to the educational path to move toward certain careers. In the family meeting, we can help you connect the majors that lead to suggested career options.

After the family meeting, we help define your next steps related to continuing career and major exploration.

Do you provide potential career shadow opportunities?

We will provide each student with instruction about informational interviews. Each student learns how to prepare for one and ask the right questions. They will conduct an informational interview with someone they know like a family member or neighbor to practice this skill. This practice interview gives students more confidence to repeat the process on their own. After that informational interview, we will discuss with the student what they learned and how students can take this skill to delve into their own careers of interest.

We have found that shorter informational interviews are a great way for a student to learn enough about careers of interest without having to spend a large chunk of time shadowing someone (only to know 15 minutes into the shadow that this is not the right job for them!)

Do you help us pick colleges?

We don’t help students pick a college. Students can use what they learned to research which colleges offer (and are strong in) that major and that meet their other college criteria. Of the three big decisions (college, major and career), we’d suggest that choosing a college is the easiest part!

Schedule your 30-minute free family meeting to learn if Guided Self Assessment is right for your child.

Do parents participate in the interview process?

Nope! Interviews are with the student only. The key is to focus on the student’s perception of their own traits. We will unpack it all with the family during that final family meeting.

How much does it cost?

Good question! No one else does this kind of in-depth work, and because it’s so unique, we prefer a chance to explain the process and show you what you’d receive so that the price makes sense. The pricing is best shared once you can see a sample of the final report and hear first-hand how it works. (It’s less than most people think, and families have said it’s a fantastic investment in their child.) If you’d really like to know pricing prior to scheduling our first 30 minute meeting to learn more, just call us at 614-404-0646.

My child is not going to college. Can Guided Self Assessment help them too?

Most definitely. College is not for everyone. We stress this message often in our presentations and strive to focus on the individual student—what truly are their best fits based on their strengths and values! Having honest conversations about the future can be so helpful, especially while in high school.

How do we get started?

Whether you read all of this and say, “Sign me up!” or you say, “I still have questions,” we recommend that you sit down with us to discuss Guided Self Assessment and see a sample report. Book a 30-minute free family meeting. We’ll walk you through the process and answer every one of your questions.

Then, we’ll all leave the meeting. Yes, we don’t want you to decide while we’re there. Choices like these need family conversations. Only after you have a chance to talk about it privately will we look forward to hearing from you. And whatever you decide is a great decision.

These free family meeting appointments fill quickly. Keep in mind, we often are scheduling students for Guided Self Assessment 4 to 6 months in advance, so please don’t wait.

We look forward to meeting you!

Updated 3/2024

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