While a lot is made of overcrowded classrooms and slashed funding for arts, sports and electives, Americans are less likely to be up in arms about a severe shortage of guidance counselors in schools around the country.
Colleges and universities are increasingly being evaluated on the career outcomes of their graduates. However, most institutions invest relatively little in career services. The average annual operating budget for a career services department is only $89,819 and, on average colleges have one career services professional for every 1,889 students, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
And for high schools, the number of guidance counselors ranges from one for every 500 to 1,000 students according to the Association for College Admission Counseling. Very few of these guidance counselors are trained as a career coach. Most are employed in schools to align students to “high school academic tracks” – without any valid, reliable and student-driven career matching method. School counseling has been set up to manage a herd and is not designed to effectively attend to the unique needs of each individual student.
Five reasons parents need to provide their teen with career coaching are discussed below:
1. The Very Real Financial Impact of the Hit and Miss Student Career Counseling Strategy
Studies show the percent of students that change majors in college at least once is too high. The number that change majors two or more times (at least three majors before graduating) is too high as well. All that changing results in a delay in graduation. If the standard is four years, every extra college course (3 or more credit hours) and the cost of extending the stay (food and housing) AND the delay in starting their career and bringing in a pay check, results in at least one full semester, and many times, one full extra year at college. National data suggests the average cost of a semester is between $15k and $25k. The low end of the college graduate starting monthly salary is about $2,500. Multiply that by 4 months for a semester and you add $10k in lost income on top of the added costs. Therefore, one added semester costs a minimum of $25,000.
The Career Coaching for Students program for high school students provides tools, methods and confidence that leads to the right choice of major and college, resulting in on-time graduation and lower student debt. Many of our students find it easy to complete a double major in four years simply because they knew and planned for what they wanted to achieve in college – before they arrived on campus.
2. The Emotional Cost of the Hit and Miss Student Career Counseling Strategy
No one is immune to the feeling of failure when their plans don’t work out. For teens, the emotional turmoil can be especially distracting and takes a toll on self esteem. If you think your teen isn’t at risk consider that the college drop out rate in the U.S. is described as “awful” by author Jordan Weissmann, in the article America’s Awful College Dropout Rates, in Four Charts. According to Weissmann, “Our dropout crisis doesn’t get discussed a great deal outside of education circles. But it should, since the issue is directly tied to other problems the public rightly obsesses over like rising tuition and student debt.” According to data in Weissmann’s article, of those who started school at age 20 or younger—as 76 percent of 2008 enrollees did—about 59 percent complete a degree. For older students, graduation rates were closer to 40 percent.
Weissmann continues, “While finances are often cited as the number one reason students don’t attend college, the more pervasive problem is clearly college dropout rates. Improving dropout rates will have a cyclical affect, helping promote a stronger future for students that obtain degrees, and improved opportunities for them and their future children as well.”
According to The New York Times, 53 percent of students that enroll in college finish their degree programs – the second worst among a poll of 23 developed nations by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Furthermore, 30 percent of freshmen don’t continue on into their second year, while more students are dropping out in their final years of college as well. In 2011, 78 percent of college attendees failed to get a diploma after six years of higher education. Taking financial constraints out of the equation, we find the reasons are much more connected to a student’s emotional and intellectual readiness. Studies suggest there are 5 reasons students are dropping out of college:
Academically unprepared – One of the main reasons that students drop out of college is that they are unprepared for the demands of an undergraduate degree program. These students find themselves burning out quickly. Looking back, many of these students tell a story of wishing they had taken different classes during high school. While the “counseling and advising” might have been there, most students don’t gain a personal perspective that they can relate to. That personal perspective is impossible to achieve in high school if the student doesn’t have some vision for their future.
Isolation – Part of college is the social experience students gain to bring them into adulthood. However, many students are faced with a sudden sense of isolation when they transition from high school to college, with no friends and none of the social relationships they have spent the last 15 or 16 years building. This isolation is strongly linked to not having a strong purpose for being at college. Going in undeclared or choosing a major that was thrust on the student by parents’ or teachers’ suggestions rather than an intentional and tangible due-diligence process is the perfect formula for feeling like you don’t belong.
Indecisiveness – One problem that many students face during their first year in college is being unsure what major to choose, or selecting the wrong one and not knowing if and how to change it and start over (the first sign of insanity is doing something over and over again the same way and expecting a different outcome). Research has shown that the majority of incoming college freshmen lack decision making competencies. This results in indecisiveness which can be extremely limiting, causing students to flounder rather than make the necessary changes to succeed. This is addressed by helping students to learn how to make big decisions such as choosing a major or choosing a career – in high school.
Lack of guidance – Many of today’s graduating high school students feel they have had very little guidance moving forward. Empowering students with best-practice tools and methods for career exploration and planning leads to development of a sense of ownership in their actions and decisions that will help them overcome any lack of guidance. High school students, with the right tools and methods for career planning, make smarter decisions. The resulting courage to make decisions will also mitigate worries about making the wrong choices that can hold students back from success.
Lack of responsibility – Of course, having a lack of a sense of responsibility for their own actions can cause students to drop out as well. Students who don’t understand and connect with their role to be personally accountable for creating their own future tend to over indulge in social activities and have poor class attendance that results in poor grades and even poorer self-esteem.
In addition to extra curricular activities such as band, sports, school clubs, boy scouts, girl scouts, etc., consider giving students tools and methods for defining and creating their own desired future. The result is a student with highly developed personal accountability and self management skills, two key success skills consistently found in highly successful people. Give a high school student the opportunity to develop and display these skills before they enter college.
We don’t need studies to tell us that the more failures a student experiences the more likely they will be impacted emotionally. While some experts on teen behavior are concerned about the narcissistic Millennial generation, the college dropout rate may suggest a larger segment of the Millennial generation will suffer from low self-esteem or may self-select out of pathways to personal success – ultimately resulting in under-achievement and low personal satisfaction.
Career Coaching for Students for high school students prepares the student on multiple levels that lead to high resiliency, many smaller successes while in high school, greater self-confidence and greater engagement and ownership in preparing for their own future.
3. The Ability to Speed Up the Development Process
There are many skeptics to the idea that high school students can actually make an informed decision about what career direction to go and what post-secondary education is best for them. Yet, many high schools are expecting the incoming 9th grader to choose an education track that basically sets them up for a vocational career path or professional career path (college). To address this issue around developmental stages, check out our article The Detrimental Dilemma for College Freshman: Go in Undeclared? Should I Double-Major? and decide for yourself.
Many so-called teen development experts believe teens are not able to develop the decision-making skills and be developmentally ready to choose a major and career before age 19 or 20 (sophomore/junior in college). If they are right, if you can’t speed up learning and development, then why is there a legitimate and growing executive coaching industry? Why is there a booming SAT/ACT prep tutoring industry? Student career coaching is designed to accelerate the development process – for students.
The Career Coaching for Students™ program is specifically designed for and highly effective in giving teens the development needed to make the leap into post-secondary possibilities.
4. The True Secret: Delay in Career Strategy Planning is Sadly Pathetic
So, we know that effective career strategy planning can be and is provided effectively to high school students. That has been proven thousands of times with the Career Coaching for Students program based on testimonials from students and parents. We also recognize the financial and emotional costs/risks for students not receiving career coaching. But is there a real need to worry about this while the student is in high school? Most colleges’ academic advising speech to incoming freshmen and their parents includes the following statement: “It is ok to enter your freshmen year as an undeclared or general studies major.” How can they say that if it isn’t true? Perhaps the better question is “how does a college, university or any post-secondary educational institution benefit from students entering without a plan?”
Perhaps the better question is “how does a college, university or any post-secondary educational institution benefit from students entering without a plan?”
Dan Johnston does college financial aid presentations and workshops at over 50 high schools each year as the Regional Director of Pennsylvania’s Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). One of his most frustrating examples of bad college advice is: “If you don’t know what major you want, go as an undeclared student. You can decide on your major after a few basic courses.”
Johnston says that, “For most students that is the worst advice possible. Granted, there will always be students whose best initial choice is undeclared, but they represent a very small percentage of students. The idea that a large number of students without a career plan can take a few basic courses, then suddenly ‘find’ themselves (to the tune of $20,000 to $50,000 per year), is sadly pathetic and needlessly expensive.”
We simply can’t say it better than that.
5. Gaining a Competitive Advantage
Let’s say the first four reasons that we’ve covered above aren’t making an impact in your thinking. Let’s move off of “career coaching” and look at something that seems to be very popular – SAT/ACT prep tutoring courses. These programs are now being offered for free by Khan Academy. The goal at Khan Academy is to level the playing field. It is well documented that high income families, those who can afford a couple of thousand dollars for the SAT prep courses, are spending the money to “increase the odds” of their son or daughter receiving a higher test score that gives them an edge when applying to the more elite colleges and universities. You might call that “gaining a competitive advantage”.
If more students will be receiving SAT/ACT prep, that suggests a higher SAT score won’t be a competitive advantage much longer. Many see an SAT test taking skills course as a superficial prop that doesn’t have any long-term benefits for the student, especially if it fails to land the student in the top tier school. However, becoming self-aware and having greater self-esteem, knowing one’s strengths, understanding the connection between what motivates you and ideal career options, being confident about your ambitions and goals, feeling in control of your future, knowing the critical path for success, demonstrating key soft skills for success and knowing how to make big decisions is a real competitive advantage that elite colleges and universities look for in applying students.
So perhaps it comes down to whether Career Coaching for Students gives students a competitive advantage. A few think it does.
Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting and executive coaching firm that provides executive development coaching, high-potential development, team development and assessments for hiring. As creator of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl has helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works.
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As I read into this article I am seeing issues right from the start that need to be addressed; not so much with the article but, the system itself. Honestly it is my opinion that you really only need to cover a few of the first pints not even reaching the end to come to a strong conclusion of what is happening here. Career Coaching is the topic at hand, yet we quickly spin in a totally different direction. These are my thoughts on the matter.
Point one “The Very Real Financial Impact of the Hit and Miss Student Career Counseling Strategy”, is a very strong reference to the fact that students are unprepared to enter into the world as what they first choose for a route of travel. I do not feel that it has anything to do with the fact these student are incapable of completing the course work, rather unprepared as mentioned later in this article. In this unpreparedness the jumping from “major to major” occurs without the thought of “what is this doing to me financially” or at very best “no worries I can pay it back later”. Further down the educational path having another change in academic planning. I have done this personally and know the thought process; however true it may be it is only stunting your future financial growth which for most if not all is the end goal.
Moving into the emotional cost of the situation it starts to hit a little bit harder in the aspect we now have to face the reality we as parents, educators and society have presented to our students. The first point of being academically unprepared is strong and very true. The education system of today is designed to rush students through like cattle and too much dismay, at the slowest students pace. My foundation for this argument may be weak in some states and cities but where I live I actually again, am experiencing this first hand with my High Functioning Autistic son who is 5 years of age. I have had him in school since he was 2 years old because the Autism was noticed early and it was recommended we get him a jump start due to his “developmental issues”. Moving into present day we recently had a parent teacher conference in which we were told that we needed to assist in the “slowing down” o our child because he was flying past his classmates academically. I understand I am talking about a 5 year old here but, this is the very foundation of his education and we are being asked to directly hinder it for the good of the many. The education system is too quick to slow children down and minimize programs when it should be adding to the programs and resources to help accelerate those who can do so.
The indecisive factor again is something that is being started early on in the education system. The limiting of special courses and opportunities is why the students are this way. We are actively eliminating industrial arts, art, and job fairs within our schools and predesigning a path for these students to take calling it “Higher Learning”. If we are not taking part in pushing our children and student to the absolute maximum each day while their minds and bodies our growing we are being proactive in the future destruction of what took some many years to build. We are killing the economy and the way of life as we know it, through the very lack education today. This also very quickly ties into guidance and lack of responsibility. We can take all three of these factors and link them to one another picking someone to blame. While we do need more career counselor helping this situation it is also a time where we need to hold our students and children more accountable for their decisions and actions. I am not suggesting we lay the hammer down on them as if they committed some horrific crime but, instill them with the knowledge that there are serious repercussions for being careless and lazy. Life is a learning process and we all learn different so we cannot be overly harsh here.
All in all the point is very clear what needs to be done. We must first address the educational issues and start pushing more career based programs into our schools. We need more accounting classes, more industrial arts course, and more home economics programs. We need more career counselors and career fairs held within these schools and establishments to first present the ideas and options of like to these children. If we keep taking it away from them and offering that predesigned plan we cannot hardly be upset with the failure or lack of try when they hit college. The heart of this article is in the right place but I believe we need to look one step before it as well as employing the career counseling idea for teens and young people. As a safe alternative in the meantime yes I agree parents should do this for their children.
Dustin, thank you for your thoughtful and passionate comments. As a parent and career coach, I think any educational system will have its flaws. I’ve watched students, friends of my own kids, who had an understanding that it was their job to find a career direction and define a future view they were excited about. These students overcame any obstacles and succeeded. A few actually had the career direction figured out by the time they graduated high school, but for most, they simply understood the connection between who they were, what types of work interested them and what post-secondary education options looked most appealing for them. I saw the same thing happen with those students I’ve coached. It is an evolutionary process. Some call it a developmental process. I think your point that the school system may be trying to slow down the development of our youth may be closer to the truth than anyone in the educational system is willing to accept. In my article, The Detrimental Dilemma for College Freshmen, I touch on the developmental theories and the belief by many experts that teens are not capable of evaluating career options/interests and that career and choice of college major shouldn’t be attempted until well into the second year of college.
This belief is beyond scary for me. If I didn’t personally witness high school students absorb and apply the career coaching I provide I might be tempted to believe the so-called experts. Parents and students are proving those teen development experts wrong. However, in the experts’ defense, they have likely never seen an effective career coaching program at the high school level. In fact, most high school administrators and parents have likely not ever seen an effective career coaching program. The first argument I hear from counselors, administrators and school boards is that they don’t have the money for such a program, yet I see hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted on low- or no-impact programs – including some with “career counseling” tagged to the program. In some cases the wasted money appears to be for superficial after-school programs to sweeten teacher paychecks. I’m all for increasing teacher pay. We just need the value to be there.
I couldn’t agree more. I feel that a source of Career Coaching being made available could greatly increase the success rate or by contrast lower the major changing rate if you will. Also I think it is a bit of a scary area to be in having a high school student decide 100% their path for the rest f their life before they graduate. At the same time however I do feel that it is a good Idea to at very minimum have a path of intent set.
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