Many children have been left wondering how the pandemic might have impacted their studies and future careers. When it comes to applying to college or university, giving them reassurance and guidance is essential right now. Students often look to their educators for academic advice but with less access to school guidance counsellors this year, many parents find themselves having to step into this role. If that’s the case, you need to be prepared to give your teenager some sound advice that can help direct him or her on the right path to success. We all make better decisions when we’re well-informed, so first, inform yourself.
Start researching schools and programs early
Ask your children the important questions one or two years in advance and encourage them to explore schools earlier so they’re under less pressure when making those considerable decisions. Students who rush through the process could find themselves in programs that aren’t right for them. They might even miss admission deadlines for first-choice schools if they can’t get their applications in on time. The sooner they start thinking about post-secondary education, the better.
Let your teen take the lead when making decisions
You’re taking time to figure this out together but ultimately, this is your child’s decision. As a parent, there’s a good chance you have some of your own biased opinions on schools and programs, but what’s right for you may not necessarily be right for them. Encourage your teen do their own research and form their own opinions. Let them make the phone calls and send emails to learn more about the programs and clubs that they’re interested in. When they head off to college or university, they’ll be taking on more responsibility so let them establish their own direction and you’ll both be off to a good start.
Ask your child questions to get them motivated
This can help you guide them towards schools and programs that might be a good fit. You probably have a sense of what interests your teenager but take the time to have a serious conversation to find out what they’re truly passionate about. What piques their curiosity? Ask them about times they felt a sense of achievement and what success really means to them. Based on their answers and what you learn, you should be able to establish a pattern of underlying feelings to get a better sense of where they want to go so you can point them in the right direction. Need a little guidance first? The Government of Canada offers online career quizzes that can help your teen discover career possibilities they may not even realize are out there.
Concentrate on your child’s interests and not your own
You may have been drawn to a career in medicine but that doesn’t mean your child shares your love of science. If your teenager isn’t interested in the material taught in their courses and they’re not finding success in their studies, there’s a good chance they won’t get the grades. You want to make sure they’re choosing classes and programs that appeal to them and complement their strengths. Consider asking a family member, friend or another parent they trust for objective advice to help guide them.
Focus on the learning process and not just the career
Students who focus solely on one career path and line everything up around that profession are narrowing their options. A flexible, open approach and a step-by-step process can make planning for education and the future less stressful and overwhelming. Teach your child how to think critically and solve complex problems and they’ll learn how to adapt. Remind them that finding a career is part of the post-secondary education process but it’s not the only end goal. You can’t always assume an undergraduate degree will create a direct path to a specific profession. Your child may even learn that their interests have changed along the way (and that’s ok). Likely, many new jobs will be created in the future that don’t even exist today.
Explore what schools offer beyond academics
Campus culture is very important. The social aspect of post-secondary life is a learning experience in and of itself. It’s how communication, teamwork, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills are taught, which are essential for career success. Clubs and societies on campus, places or social groups, and support and online services beyond the classroom are key factors when making a decision. Although most schools have cancelled in-person campus tours right now, many have virtual tour options.
Take advantage of online resources
With so many courses and admissions processes moving online, tools, resources and programs that can help your child understand their strengths and interests and browse career possibilities are more easily accessible. You can often follow guidance counsellors’ Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs or chat via school websites to get expert advice. A simple online search offers many free career exploration resources, including apps and websites that offer comprehensive career and postsecondary preparation.
This year may have brought up a lot of questions around your child’s postsecondary education. Remind them that they’re not alone. Many students are feeling the same uncertainty. Even more reason to give them as much guidance as you possibly can to start thinking about what lies ahead. You may not be able to completely predict the future but you both can be a little more prepared for it.