Planning for the Future

Once upon a time, it was enough to simply attend high school, graduate, and take a job with a company where you would work until retirement. The truth is, the typical career path hasn’t looked like this for quite some time. Today, all high school graduates need some post-secondary education or training in order to be successful in today’s job market. The good news is that there are more flexibility and resources than ever to help students succeed after high school.

Preparing for What’s Next

As ways of learning and work change and evolve, so should your planning. At school, you may hear a lot about College and Career Readiness. In a nutshell, this type of readiness means to look ahead toward college, a career, or the military and making well-informed and thoughtful plans about these goals. It also means making sure you possess the proper knowledge and skills needed to be successful in future endeavors. It requires being prepared for the whole experience. Instead of the standard reading, writing and arithmetic skills, experts have identified five crucial areas they consider important for success after high school. They are: academic coursework preparation, study skills, transitional life skills, college application process, and world of work.

As the cost of college continues to rise, being informed is more important than ever. Being “college ready” means having the knowledge and skills necessary to enroll in credit-bearing courses without the need for remedial, or make-up, work. Being “career ready” means more than just getting a job. A career should provide a wage that can properly support your family, as well as offer opportunities for advancement. Career readiness can include participation in a vocational program, community college, apprenticeship or on-the-job training.

What You Can Do Now

What can you do today to plan for a smooth transition into college or career?

College Preparation

  • Freshman Year Take responsibility for your coursework. Your parents shouldn’t have to nag you to do your homework, write papers or study for tests. Participate in clubs or sports. Start keeping a list of your awards and unique educational experiences.
  • Sophomore Year Keep your grades up. The higher your grades, the more choices you are going to have. Develop good habits like managing your time and balancing schoolwork, activities and friends. Complete your 20 hours of service learning. Meet with your guidance counselor to make sure you are on track for graduating.
  • Junior Year Take on leadership roles in your activities. Schedule college campus tours and participate in college fairs. Select and research 10 colleges. Register for the ACT/SAT exam and determine which colleges prefer which test. Complete an Expected Family Contribution calculator (EFC) to determine how much financial aid you may be eligible to receive. Plan your senior year class schedule.
  • Senior Year Request recommendation letters and gather other required documents. Register to retake ACT/SAT if necessary. Apply for Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Narrow choices of colleges and fill out applications. Use Spring Break to do final visits. Review acceptance letters with parents and counselors. Apply for appropriate scholarships. Get a summer job and save for college.

Career Planning

The best way to start planning ahead is spend quality time and energy really getting to know yourself. Explore your interests and identify your strengths and skills. Do research on different kinds of careers, and take notes on the various types of education, training, work experience, licenses, certifications needed to enter each field and advance. Check out the current outlook for jobs in particular fields.

Joining the Military

The Armed Forces can be a way to explore the world, find direction, carry on a family tradition, or pay for college while earning a living wage at the same time. But it is also a big commitment. Making an informed decision is the best way to know if this choice is right for you. Talk to someone who has served and ask thoughtful questions. Visit a recruiter and ask detailed questions. Start getting yourself in shape; rumor has it, boot camp is no walk in the park.

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