5 Steps Ahead                            

How to help you teen discover "what they want to be when they grow up."


Step 1  Know yourself

Personality Profile

Help your student understand their Myers Briggs™ 4-letter code.

Free testing available at www.humanmetrics.com.


Personal Values Profile

Discuss how your personal values influence your career decisions. Help you student think through the things they value most and connect this to career decisions.  There is a brief (not completely thorough, but a good place to start) assessment at www.123test.com.


Step 2 Know your environment

People environments

With what types of people do you work best? Help you student discover their Holland Code™. Free assessment available at www.123test.com.


Work environments

 In what type of environment do you thrive? Discuss various work environment options and determine where your student does his/her best work.


 Step 3 Know the job market


 Investigate careers that you may be interested in. Go to www.bls.gov/ooh/ to find detailed information about various careers.  Including growth potential and earnings


Set up informational interviews and job shadow for those career fields!


Step 4 Know your budget

Salary considerations

 Discover the unequal earning power of common majors by comparing careers that your student is interested in and discussing the realities of life after college. 


The danger of student loans

 Calculate together how much you can you afford to borrow, and who will pay it back.  Use a net price calculator to estimate your expenses. Search for Net Price Calculator at www.usnew.com/education.  Be honest with yourself and your student about your financial limitations before you are emotionally involved in a college decision.


 Apply the 2/3 formula for student debt. (2/3 x starting salary=max amount you should borrow)


Step 5 Know your options         

Next Steps


AFTER going through steps 1-4, start matching schools with your desired field of study and your budget.  You can filter your search using the college search tool at



If you are open to the idea, discuss the potential benefits of community college, certification programs, or a gap year. 


Make sure your student understands that graduating in 4 years is the goal.  Explain to them the 4 secrets to graduating in 4 years (and saving lots of money!)

  • Start early with dual enrollment

  • Do your research before choosing a major

  • Choose the right school the first time

  • Take 15 hours a semester

Suggested reading for parents:

Beating the College Debt Trap by Alex Chediak
Will College Pay Off? A Guide to the Most Important Financial Decision You'll Ever Make by Peter Cappelli
There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow by Jeffrey J. Selingo