We see startling statistics every day such as less than 50% of college students will complete college with their degree. That means that the other half will drop out. Probably with large loan debts. But even backtracking a bit…do you know what the stats are for students who continue from high school to college? The numbers are even more staggering.

Think about it: From a young age, kids are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Most kids shrug and continue as they were playing games or whatnot. Or they may say something like, “football player” (because they love football), or “doctor” (because their parents love the show The Good Doctor) or anything else that may be a familiar occupation to them. Not because they know what it’s about, but because they’ve heard others talk about it and they cling to that as all they know.  

If you’re at an age where you can remember looking for a plumber in the phonebook instead of Yelp, how did you pick one? Wouldn’t the first few on the list suffice? Well, that’s how we’ve treated college majors. Just a simple search led me to this article that states that the top 10 most popular college majors include: Biology, Business Administration, Communications, Computer Science….see a pattern here? “B’s” and “C’s” – at the top of the list. Some of the others include Marketing, Nursing, and Psychology. Surprised? Probably not. Now, there is nothing wrong with any of these majors, of course. I myself have a Business Administration degree that I luckily stumbled upon after changing majors three times and spending an additional two years in school. But the point is that most students will choose a major based on what seems to be most accessible to them or what they’ve heard from others. Most of the time, once they enter school for said major, they hate it and hence, either switch majors (and incur higher debt) or drop out, ultimately delaying time to enter the workforce and limiting their opportunities/options for careers.

What about kids that don’t want to go to college? I’d argue that while I agree that college is not for everyone, especially since there is a growing need for more trades, many students say this because they just have no clue what college will provide them with. If you have no idea what you want to do, why would you continue in school when you can get a job out of college and be done with it? Again, while there is nothing wrong with that, I think that we are doing our future generation a huge disservice by not at the very least showing them their possibilities. What if the student that says college isn’t for them has the potential to be a brilliant architect? What if the student that hated their high school classes and can’t stand the thought of more school has amazing talent as a Marketing Manager at a small agency?

On the other hand (and we all know at least a handful amongst our friends), we have students that go to college, get their degree, and later discover that they got into the wrong major and job because they hate it. What if that same student that walked out with high student debt (borrowers in the Class of 2017, on average, owe $28,650, according to the Institute for College Access and Success) discovers they love plumbing and they could have gone to trade school instead?

So what am I trying to say here?

I want everyone to discover all their possibilities and be able to choose the path that is right for them. Not what the parent wants. Not what society wants.

I truly believe that if we start teaching children to discover their interests from an early age, we can start to help them tap into areas they may excel in as they get older. A great deal of research backs up this belief, such as The Nature and Power of Interests by Rounds and Su. Even without combing through the research, don’t you feel more excited when you get to interact with activities that align with your interests? Wouldn’t it make sense that if a student learns about more majors and careers that align with their interests, they would feel a sense of purpose and want to excel in what they are doing to get to that point? The “pointless” assessments, homework, and classes would be a means to an end.

How do you incorporate your interests in your daily life—whether at work or through hobbies? If you’re curious to explore your own interests, go ahead and open a new tab on your phone right now by clicking on https://vitanavis.com/placementu?promo=tryvn. Click on Sign Up and enter your information. This is free and you can go back and log into your new VitaNavis Analytics Platform account at any time. You’ll be prompted to enter event attended, so just enter “blog”. Now you’ll go through a short assessment that will begin to determine your interests, which should take you less than 10 minutes. Once you’re done, you will receive your top three general occupation codes (based on Holland’s RIASEC theory), which will then be mapped to occupations you can explore. There’s a lot to explore here so feel free to take your time and save your login details!

I want to stress that I’m also not going to deny that there aren’t other factors involved. It may sound wishy-washy to say “let’s let all kids explore their interests and match them to jobs and all will be perfect and good in the world because we will have everyone doing what they love”. We can’t pretend as though aligning interests and helping students find that path is a magic trick and everything will be fine. It also doesn’t mean they will get into their dream school or that they’ll be able to pay for college. I worked throughout high school and college to pay for school (while also incurring school debt). I was lucky because I had the support of my parents. Other students don’t have that. I say this because I have these conversations with friends and I can’t deny the reality of so many students. It also doesn’t guarantee that they will make a ton of money and be successful in the career or vocation they chose.

But I can at least advocate in trying to help give every student an opportunity and a purpose.

It’s also a starting point to get them to understand the kinds of skills and competencies they are going to need to build upon. It will get them to think beyond salaries and look at the future of jobs to start to understand where our economy is shifting towards because they’ll be making more informed decisions.

I’m asking a lot of what if’s here. But once again, what if by helping a young student to discover something they are passionate about leads them to become more engaged in school….which leads them to get better grades….which then leads them to potentially getting financial aid and/or scholarships to continue on the path they’ve chosen? Or even when that student decides to take some time off after graduating from high school, they will be in a better position to have a plan of action if they decide (and are in the position) to follow that plan.

Ultimately, all kids deserve a fair chance to explore the possibilities the world has for them. All kids should know that they have a real purpose in our society, whatever that may be that is right for them. This shouldn’t ever be limited to certain students. It should include all, especially marginalized students in certain social and economic classes. We have so much potential in our future generations but we need to know how to help them find it and encourage it!

Why aren’t we giving all students a chance to explore their possibilities?

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