What are the top college planning concerns for a high school sophomore?

Sophomores in high school need to focus on learning about their personality and defining a career pathway. The first step in this process is to take a personality assessment. There are quite a few out there. I generally ask families to take a free personality assessment (16 personalities is a good one) and then match this to careers using resources like Do What You Are by Tieger and Barron. If a family has other resources at their disposal, like the ability to take the “real McCoy” Meyers-Briggs assessment from the counseling center, that only increases the odds of success.

After short-listing a handful of careers, students should look up these careers in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (now online). In particular, they should focus on a few areas of research: median pay, number of jobs, job outlook, and employment change. After learning these vital statistics, check out the “How to Become One” tab. This defines the pathway to get the job. Finally, the “Similar Occupations” tab can help a student who is still discovering new pathways.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of this part of the college planning process. Most families understand this intrinsically. One reason career selection is so important is because it has such an outsized impact on an individual’s happiness over time. Less obviously, defining a career pathway is also important because it can save the family money. Students who know what they want to do (out of the gate) spend less time in college and have a greater chance of successfully graduating. That fifth year can be quite expensive!

What college planning topics should parents focus on during the sophomore year of high school?

Parents can play a crucial role in helping a student define a career pathway. I encourage parents to not only act as a task-master at this point in the process, but to be a part of the student’s reflection process. How have you seen your child excel throughout his or her life? What experiences stick out in your mind? What do you think your child would be good at? What successes, failures, “good calls,” and mistakes have you made in your own career? Are you willing to share this with your child?

Furthermore, parents can open their Rolodex and connections to great avail during their children’s discovery. Does your child want to be doctor? Could you connect her to the family physician to shadow for a day? Outside of shadowing, could your child conduct an informational interview or volunteer? This practical experience introduces a level of reality to the search that can be quite valuable. After all, many children want to be firefighters until they realize what one actually does day-to-day.

Looking for more guidance? Download our high school college planning checklist for free.