As teachers, it is our job to help students prepare for career, college, or whatever goals they have beyond our doors. Many times it seems there is a push for focusing on our students who are college-bound, but we really need to present all options for students so they can make the best decision for their future successes. Read on for some tips on how you can help students prepare.
1. Explore different paths to success
We need to quit pushing college as the only option for our students to pursue. I have seen many schools focus on college readiness, even going as far as highlighting these students on the school’s social media pages. There is nothing wrong with celebrating, but what about students heading into trade school or on-site training? College isn’t the only road, and being a teacher willing and ready to help students explore their options is a teacher that will make a big difference for all students.
2. Allow students to explore options
In addition to presenting options, students need to feel free to explore those options. High school isn’t the final deciding ground. This should be a safe space for students to ask questions and consider alternatives. That student who always planned on one career can take some time to consider other interests, or look into other academic pursuits. Let students feel free to select any topic of interest and research it, even if it isn’t immediately obvious for a career or college choice. You may have students find new passions.
3. Help them consider academic strengths and other talents
I really love seeing my students thrive in all aspects of their lives. Of course, I focus on the academic strengths, and usually, that’s what is focused on when we consider careers and colleges. But I also love hearing about students taking their other talents and using them in their future. I once had a senior who was very into his agriculture classes, and was very involved in 4H even from a young child. He wanted to be a firefighter (and he is!), but spent a semester for a senior research project learning the ins and outs of running auctions, and even worked on his “auctioneer voice”. He now volunteers with 4H students and helps them practice for auctions. It’s something he absolutely loves and I’m so glad he had the opportunity to explore that talent and passion even though it wasn’t part of his career pursuit.
One assignment I like to assign toward the beginning of the year is a personal statement assignment. After teaching my students all about what a personal statement is and how to write one, I then have my students write their own personal statements. This assignment is so beneficial to my students because they then have a working draft of a personal statement that they can use for college applications and job interviews.
4. Utilize the school counselors
The counselors are way more up-to-date than I ever am. They know more ins and outs of college prep, scholarships, and career options. They can hunt down internships or find grants relating to student interests. Ask your school counselor if there’s any type of presentation they might like to prepare for the students and offer up some class time. Make sure your students have the opportunity to make appointments with the counselor and know that the counselor’s know-how is for more than just submitting college applications and requesting letters of recommendation.
5. Stay up to date on trends
Students who don’t know where to start need some guidance. In addition to having them explore their talents and consider their goals in life, keep yourself in the know on the latest trends for job searches. Give them advice on stable career choices, and talk them through what might be the best fit. Know what options your local colleges give to in-state students or trade schools that will help students get through courses. This also can help you with students who have questions about their futures. Is this a good career to pursue? Is college the best option? Should I get a degree or try on-site training? Help your students make the best choice by giving them all options you are privy to.
6. Help prepare students through research
I think the best way to get your students thinking about their future beyond the classroom is by giving up class time for them to think about it. My college and career research assignment is a great way to get students thinking about their future. I have an easy-to-use research bundle that will help your students focus on career and college readiness. This assignment guides students as they research the many different aspects of a specific career and college or university. I’ve had many teachers use this and modify it to fit their students, even some as young as 6th grade!
How do you help students prep for career, college, and beyond? Let me know in the comments below and share your favorite success stories or tips for others to use.