Preparing high school students for the future

Feature Story

Did you know that only about 30 percent of ninth graders will graduate high school with the skills they need to take the next steps in their lives? According to the U.S. Department of Education:

  • More than half of students entering college are required to take remedial courses, many in several subjects.
  • About half of first-year students at community colleges do not continue on for a second year.
  • About a quarter of first-year students at four-year colleges do not stay for their second year.
  • More than 40 percent of college students who earn more than 10 credits never complete a two- or four-year degree.

How do we address this problem? Well, being in the field for six years, I have seen some outstanding career counselors. Dr. Fran Brady, director of careers at East Leyden and West Leyden high schools, has strong relationships with companies in the community. “How does that help,” you ask? Well, it allows high school juniors and seniors to work during the year and gain experience.

What else can we do to prepare our high school students for tomorrow? Here are 10 general steps:

  1. Develop a career plan. Students should think about what they want to do and find out more about the kind of training, education and skills they'll need to obtain to meet their career goal.
  2. Assess their skills and interests. Think hard about what they enjoy, what they're good at, what kind of personalities they have and the values they hold.
  3. Research occupations. Find out more about the nature of the jobs that interest the students, such as educational requirements, salary, working conditions, future outlook and anything else that can help students narrow their focus.
  4. Compare their skills and interests with the occupations they've selected. The career that most closely matches their skills, interests and personalities may be the best career fit for them.
  5. Help them choose their career goal. Once they set their sights on an occupation, they can begin developing a plan to reach their career goal.
  6. Select a school that offers a college degree or training program that best meets their career goal and financial needs.
  7. Find out about financial aid to help support them in obtaining their career goal. Follow through with their high school guidance counselors.
  8. Teach them job hunting tips as they prepare to graduate or move into the job market.
  9. Prepare a resumé and practice job interviewing techniques.
  10. Encourage or set up job shadowing in an office environment to give them real-world work experience.

What about higher education?

Check out these questions most students don’t even think of asking before they enroll:

  • Will the program be delivered by distance education (online)?
  • Does the school offer scholarships? If so, what are the requirements?
  • Does the school offer job placement assistance?
  • Have students filed complaints against the school?
  • Is the school I'm considering accredited and licensed?
  • What are the requirements for admission?
  • Is financial assistance or student aid available?
  • What is the school’s refund policy?

The problem has been identified, along with suggestions on how to fix it. As a community of high school counselors and college advisers, we can make a difference in our students’ lives. Let’s work toward changing that 30 percent of skilled high school graduates to 100 percent, ensuring every student has a chance at a bright future.

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