How to Talk About College and Careers With Your Teen

The Vermeire's come together for a family dinner, sharing the day's stories from school, work and track practice. Each of the girls have different daily routines dependent on school activities, chores and after school employment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

photo credit:  (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Sometimes parents get the big eye roll when they try to discuss college and careers with their teenagers. Teens get college and career advice all the time. Everyone has an opinion about their aspirations, interests, etc. So how can you have a powerful discussion with your teen about college and careers?

“You should be a …..” 

Ask you teen what career interests they have, but don’t tell them what to be. Even if you notice a talent they have that would make them suitable for a particular path if they have no interest in that area they will not be able to excel in that field. Try suggesting a career rather than telling them what they should do. “Have you thought about …….” “Do you know anything about ……”

You can be whatever you want to be.

While this is a supportive approach it is not the best way to help your teen. This statement gives them no guidance. Ask your teen questions about careers. Talk about choices together.

If it’s hard then don’t do it.

This is not something parents should say to students. We need to encourage our children to take on challenges and persevere. Challenging things make us stronger. We learn from challenging experiences. I know we want our children to take on a career that will not be stressful or cause emotional pain, but at the same time some people see a job as overwhelming and others may see the same job as an opportunity. Don’t discourage your teen. If you think they mention a career that is challenging explore the pros and cons together.

Picture yourself 10 years from now. Where are you? What are you doing? Who is around you?

Do you have a career vision?

What do you want to get really good at doing?

What is your definition of work?

What impact do you want to have on other people’s lives or in the world?

Whom do you admire most? What qualities do you admire in that person. (living or dead)

What is most important to you? What do you value?

What motivates you?

Do you believe that you can love what you do and make money doing it?

The best thing you can do for your teen is listen to them, ask them about their interests, and guide them to making choices best suited for them.

Melanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

Helping Students Find Their Passion

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Recently, I read The Element, by Sir Ken Robinson, whom I respect for his views about education and innovative ideas about how to help students succeed. He defines one’s element as a point “where natural aptitude meets personal passion.” Being in your element is more than just doing something you are good at. People are good at things that they don’t like. To truly be in your element it requires the perfect combo of talent as well as loving what you are doing. Dr. Robinson states, “When people are in their Element, they connect with something fundamental to their sense of identity, purpose, and well-being.”

Reading The Element has made me more self-aware of my own talents and passions and how important it is to my overall well-being to give attention to them. It made me think about my education, my career path thus far, and the advice I received from others along the way. In this talk I reflect on my education, my career path thus far, and the advice I received from others along the way.

Passion: The Compass and the Fuel in your Journey to Success from Melanie Black on Vimeo.


As a certified Academic Life Coach, I believe what I have learned in this book will help me better help and guide my students. One of the focuses of the Academic Life Coaching program is to help teens and students discover their passion and find ways to incorporate that passion into their lives through leadership projects. It promotes teens’ and students’ to be creative and gain self-confidence.

From the ALC Workbook

What do you love to do?

If you had two weeks completely free, what would you pursue?

Is there anything odd that you’re interested in that most of your friends aren’t?

What would you love to pursue as a career?


Sir Ken Robinson discusses creativity in his book and how it applies to student success. He states, “Creativity is as important as literacy.” YES! He stresses the idea that academic ability is not enough to succeed. “If all you had was academic ability, you wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed this morning. In fact, there wouldn’t have been a bad to get out of. No one could have made one. You could have written about possibility of one, but not have constructed it.” Dr. Robinson explains how when we hear the word, creative, we tend to associate it with the arts. However, he goes on to discuss the importance creativity across ALL subjects, and areas of life. Sir Ken Robinson notes, “Human communities depend upon a diversity of talent not a singular conception of ability.”

If we want to prepare youth for college and university and beyond we must teach them how to find their element and use it to be successful. The job market has become extremely competitive.  More and more people are getting a degree then ever before. It used to be if you got a degree you were almost guaranteed a job. Now, that is not the case. Sir Ken Robinson states, “But now kids with degrees are often heading home to carry on playing video games, because you need an MA where the previous job required a BA, and now you need a PhD for the other. It’s a process of academic inflation. And it indicates the whole structure of education is shifting beneath our feet. We need to radically rethink our view of intelligence. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children.” Bottom line: it is important that one finds their element and from it bases choices about their future.

Want to learn more about how to find your element? Click HERE for a FREE workbook by Sir Ken Robinson & Lou Aronica. This workbook will help you find your talents and passions! After you go through the workbook, the next step is to create action steps to pursue your element.

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 Student Futures’s goal is to motivate and help students achieve their dreams through Academic Coaching. Know a teen who needs help getting on the right track to success? Click here to contact Student Futures today to set up an initial academic coaching consultation with Academic Coach, Melanie Black to learn more about how we help teens achieve their dreams and become masters of their own path to success.