“Is my child college material?” Boy, that is a hefty question packed with lots of things to consider! What kind of student is your child? Do they enjoy school? Are they mentally ready to move away? How are those life skills coming – skills like time management, being independent, problem solving, and advocating for themselves? Has the significant cost of college been discussed as a family? Does everyone have a sense of the value…the return on the investment? When trying to decide whether your child should go to college, these considerations all need to be carefully evaluated.
One potential missed opportunity in all these deliberations is the conversations about WHY the student is going to college.
We read a lot in the media about the declining perception of the value of a 4-year college degree, especially among today’s teenagers. We are huge advocates for understanding all the options available today to our students after high school including career technical programs, 2-year college degrees, certifications, apprenticeships, the military, gap years, and entering the workforce.
However, no matter the destination, it all comes back to “why.”
Why is the student going to college, getting an apprenticeship, or entering the military? The “why” is the career. It is the reason the student is following a certain path. The “why” is what the student envisions for their future life.
Parents and students need to have conversations about careers and the different skills and education needed to do them. Students need to think deeply about their strengths, interests, values, and lifestyle goals to research potential careers that will fit them. (Guided Self Assessment supports the kind of in-depth thinking that’s required for many students to make these connections.)
Going off to college without a strong sense of why, an understanding of oneself, or a sense of purpose is a risky proposition.
College is about more than just fun.
We’re not going to be fun suckers and say that students shouldn’t aim to have a good time in college. College is a lot of things, including a time in life to have fun. But that college experience comes with a huge bill, and its primary purpose is an academic and career-minded pursuit. Heading to college with misaligned priorities (i.e. partying at the top of the list) will likely lead to an unfortunate outcome. The cost is too great to not focus on gaining the skills, education, and experiences that propel students toward work they love.
Students with an understanding of their potential destination have more focus and drive to reach their goal, while still having fun along the way!
It’s a lot to think about.
Deciding whether or not a student is college bound has many angles to consider. We would argue that one of the most important ones is the why. Without some clear potential career destinations in mind and understanding how your student connects with those careers, the danger of floundering without purpose becomes higher.
Some next steps for families to consider:
- Book your 30-minute free family meeting to learn more about Guided Self Assessment and see if it is a fit for your student (grades 10 & up).
- If you could use a little nudge on how to encourage career exploration with your child (grades 9-12), consider a personal free 30-minute career thinking chat with an At The Core team member.
- For our DIY families, watch our Why Go to College? Career/Major Thinking for Teens webinar for grades 8 through 12 with your student.
- Register for our Heads Up! Equipping Students for What’s Next workshop for grades 7, 8, and 9 to get an introduction to this thinking.
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