Does My Child Really NEED To Go To College?

Student in graduation cap and gown taking a selfie with their parents

A career conversation with your children

When our children first arrive in our lives, we look at their sweet faces and wonder “Who will you become?”  Then we embark on a two+ decade journey with them towards finding their answer. To find the answers, they – and we parents – should think critically about career choices. Together, we should determine what is needed to achieve their desired results by asking questions, seeking information, and making informed decisions.

When I say “determine” I don’t mean “we choose for them” – I mean “we help them figure out.” Fall registration is already looming. We parents should help them choose appropriate classes to support their career goals, but we should know what their goals are.  Does their path REQUIRE a 2- or 4-year college degree or could “college money” be used to start a business? Should they pursue additional degrees later when an employer can help pay the expenses? Or do they want to jump into a job now and think awhile?

Ask a few questions and REALLY listen to their answers. Dig for more when they give vague answers! Start with the classic “What do you want to be?” and work from there:

  • Why does that career seem interesting? What about it do you like?
  • What aspects of that job would make you want to spend years doing it? Why is that important to you? You’re looking for their expected emotional “reward.”
  • What do you know about the pay and lifestyle of people with those jobs?
  • Have you talked with someone in that career field about what they do? Parents can help set up discussions with working professionals or part time job or volunteer opportunities.
  • Is that job the only one you think you might like to do?

Great sources include: BLS.gov, indeed.com, payscale.com, salary.com, glassdoor.com. Literally hundreds of websites have information from salaries to lifestyles and job opportunities. Check professional societies, local organizations, and your school’s career counseling services. Do your own research so you’ll be prepared for future discussions.

Your role is to listen and facilitate. Career choices can become a weekly dinner topic or road trip chat. And remember – they don’t need all the answers at once. Talk with them like the adults you want them to become, respect their opinions, help identify steps to reach their career vision. It’s ok if they don’t want to go to college, especially in today’s “Gig Economy.” Be supportive and keep focused on helping them determine and achieve their definition of success.

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Susan Askew and Rebecca Falcon live and work in South Huntsville. For more than a decade, they have supported Huntsville area schools by volunteering with Cyber Teams and camps, bringing speakers into the classrooms, speaking at STEM career planning events, and assisting with other STEM activities. They have taken their passion for helping learners and educators forward and started Black Swans Rising, LLC (BSRi).  BSRi serves educators, educational systems, small businesses and industries in the region with STEM, cybersecurity, engineering, and management consulting services and products. BSRi seeks to help the secondary and post-secondary education communities achieve their goals and excel in STEM activities in traditional and virtual classrooms. For more information on what BSRi can do for your organization, contact Susan and Rebecca at info@blackswansrising.com. “Black Swans Rising – Delivering the Unexpected”

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