What happens when students make college decision without strong career counseling?

$21,000 in student loans and working as a nanny.

If I hadn’t heard similar stories so many time, I’m not sure if I would have believed it.

I met a young woman recently who immediately impressed me with her intelligence and personable warmth. As we keep talking she told me that she finished her bachelor’s degree in media management at a flagship university in 3 years. Not an easy task. Clearly she was focused and hard-working.

But now at 24, she deeply regrets her decision. She has no desire to do anything with the degree she earned and will be paying for over the next 15 years. Working as a nanny is the best paying job that allows her the flexibility she wants.

What hurts is not that she has all the debt — it’s that she spent her time & money on a degree she doesn’t want.

She said, “Uh, college is only worth it if you make sure you really know what you want before you go.”

How do you help your kids know what they want?

How do you connect with excellent career counseling so they avoid the all-too-common fate of a college degree they later regret?


Limitations of Parents


You want your kids to be happily thriving on their own in college and then in their career.

Most adults, though, barely feel confident in their own career decisions. They feel unqualified and intimidated to provide career advice to their kids.

The last thing you want is to suggest your kid follows a career path only to end up at 24 as a nanny with $21K in debt, regretting the choice and resenting you.

Plus, conversations between parents & kids about career & college choices can quickly lead to conflict. Even in the healthiest of relationships, it’s a quagmire of issues. Having an outside, objective guide can make all the difference in the world.

You look to others to provide the career counseling and guidance.


A System In Overwhelm


In reality, who is there to help your kids know what they want from college?

School counselors are trained to provide career counseling but they are overwhelmed with preparing large numbers of students for graduation and testing. They don’t have time to provide individualized attention. In the limited time they do have, they will focus on getting college-bound kids prepared for college, not so much on career exploration.

Teachers may be assigned to help students with career counseling, but they rarely have formalized training. Plus they are also overwhelmed by large numbers of students on top of ever-increasing demands on their time.

If you hire a college placement advisor, they are trained to get your kid into college. They are not trained in helping your kid know what they really want.

Your last hope is that your kid will find guidance from their advisor in college. But knowing that public institutions have on average 1 advisor for every 400 students, don’t count on good guidance there. Private colleges will often assign students to a faculty member for advising. Again, though, the faculty are not trained career counselors and don’t have the tools or time to properly guide such a weighty decision.

Basically, it falls back on your kids to figure out on their own what they really want.


Career Counseling in the Mind of A Seventeen-Year-Old


Until age 25 our brains aren’t fully formed. We aren’t skilled at predicting consequences into the future.

Plus, they haven’t had enough experience in the world or in workplaces to make well-informed decisions.

At the same time, these are decisions that need to be made. Just hoping it will all work out is not okay.

And these are not decisions you should make for them. When adults make critical decisions for kids, it just diminishes their confidence and their capacity to make key decisions in the future.


Guiding Light


To help kids truly make well-informed decisions that build their self-confidence and lead to the most positive outcomes in college and career, they need a personalized career guidance from a trained professional with an expertise in adolescent development.

Kids need to respect and “click” with the professional so that their 1-on-1 work provides space for the kid to reveal his/her honest feelings and desires. While these may change as your kids grow and self-actualize, it crucial to start this process on honest ground.

Ideally, career counseling should come before your kids start applying for college. It will improve their motivation in school and in completing applications. It will increase the quality of their application when they can explain clearly to colleges what they want and the work they’ve done to come to that conclusion. Most importantly, it will produce greater long-term results in college, career, and well-being when kids see the point of their time in college.

If your kids are already in college or even just out of college, they can benefit from career counseling, too. They can solidify their conviction in the choices they have made or change courses to begin building the experiences that will lead to a career path that excited them.

These are precisely the services I offer through Off-Trail On Purpose.

Here are key questions to ask anyone you would consider hiring to work with your kid:

  • How long have you been working with adolescents?
  • In what specific capacities have you interacted with adolescents in that time?
  • What tools do you use to help your clients make these decisions?
  • How much time will you personally spend with my son/daughter?
  • What specific outcomes will you deliver?
  • How specifically will your work lead to my kid having a better experience in college and finding engaging work after college?
  • What is your greatest hope for your clients?

I would love the opportunity to answer these questions for you.

Without a clearly defined purpose in the mind of the college-bound student that is based on intensive, personalized research and career counseling, college can be a bad investment or a wasted opportunity.

Help your kids get the advantage they need to get the most out of the college years and on-track towards career choices that fulfill them.


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