Life after high school – the path is different for everyone
Every child is unique, with unique talents, passions and skills. And as each child grows up, he or she begins thinking about independence and the future.
As a parent, you can help guide your children toward a meaningful career. William Shakespeare wrote that “all things are ready, if our minds be so.”
The path to a career will be different for every student, but the early route is the same. Children need to work hard in school up until the day they graduate. Rigorous classes will prepare students for college, career and life.
After high school, there are limitless possibilities. Four-year universities are perfect for some students (www.actstudent.org/college/index). Community colleges are ideal for others. Certification programs nicely fit the bill for some careers. Apprenticeships are another way to explore the world of work – and get paid for learning. Internships are great for students – whether they’re in high school or college – who want to get a taste for an occupation. Some high schools even offer career academies that provide courses for specific occupations.
The medical field offers up an excellent example of a wide and diverse occupational spectrum. Your child might start in one position and love it. Or he or she may want to continue moving along the continuum.
For example, certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, work with nurses to provide patient care. Community colleges offer six- to 12-week CNA certificate programs. In less than four months, your child could complete training for a lifelong career or use the training as a springboard for further medical study.
Several years ago, my daughter was in the hospital. I learned that her nursing aide was also a pre-med student. He said being a nursing aide was a great way to make sure he really wanted to be doctor. In addition, because he worked weekends and was paid well, he was able to pay his own way through college.
Anyone interested in a medical career can study and train to become a paramedic, registered nurse, physician’s assistant or medical doctor, among other options. Whether your student becomes a radiological technician (two years of education) or a radiologist (eight+ years of education and training) is a matter of time and individual skills and preferences.
It’s never too early to begin thinking about life after high school. You may have a child who picks a career at age 5 and never wavers from that goal. Or, perhaps more likely, your child may change his or her mind many times. Fortunately, you can help point your child to resources that explore and examine careers.
Beginning in eighth grade, your student can take ACT’s EXPLORE® exam. This test contains a total of 128 questions that assess your child’s readiness in English, math, science and reading. Because students complete an interest inventory, score reports also provide valuable information to guide their educational and career plans.
In 10th grade, students may take the PLAN® test, a 145-question exam that builds upon the same topics as EXPLORE; the material is slightly more difficult. PLAN results show academic areas where your student is strongest and where he or she needs to improve. For sample test questions, encourage your teenager to visit www.actstudent.org/plan/pdf/sample.pdf.
Finally, in 11th or 12th grade, your student can take the ACT® test. ACT scores, along with student grades, show your teenager’s readiness for college and career. To learn more about the ACT test, visit www.actstudent.org/index.html.
The ACT Map of College Majors (www.actstudent.org/majorsmap/index) is another valuable tool. Your student can easily navigate the site to help determine which college majors fit his or her career goals. With 80 primary majors and links to more than 280 other majors, this site provides an in-depth look at topics of study, available degrees, and related occupations and majors. Even if your child doesn’t attend college, this site helps narrow down the occupational focus.
Education is the building block of a successful career. Help your child stay on course in school. Encourage your child to take challenging classes. And guide your child along the journey. The reward will be a young adult who is ready for all that life offers.
Rose Rennekamp is the vice president of communications for ACT. She is a mom and has a master’s of education in guidance and counseling. For more college and career-planning information, visit www.act.org.