Not all students learn the same way, but many students - whether traditional or nontraditional, who come from diverse backgrounds - have one thing in common: they have no idea what to do after high school.

"The vast majority [of teens] have no idea what they want to do when they grow up," Beth Heaton, senior director of educational consulting at advising firm College Coach, told U.S. News & World Report. "How can you know? If you're 16, 17, 18, you know so little of the world." Teens may be clueless about their future, but high school administrators can help. Guide students toward the right career for them. The following three ideas can improve career literacy and planning among your students.

Career Exploration

The best way to know if something is a good fit, is to try it on for size. Give students an opportunity to "try out" various career options by hosting an interactive career exploration day that enables them to get a first-hand look at the range of options available to them. Invite top employers in your area to not only present their offerings but encourage them to include hands-on demonstrations and breakout sessions to really help students learn about local careers, their work environment, necessary skill sets, earning potential and the training needed to become employed. For Freshmen and Sophomores just starting out, this is a great opportunity to put them in a position to begin thinking about their future, allowing them to take proactive steps toward their goals before they even graduate. For Juniors and Seniors, this helps students stay motivated toward graduation by thinking beyond the diploma.


Create a mentorship program of supportive professionals who can share personal experiences and successes with high school students. These individuals serve as mentors and role models for students who are misguided or unsure about what lies ahead past high school. A mentorship program can help students set goals, transition into higher education and follow a professional path.1

Implement your school's mentorship initiative with the mission to:

  • Provide guidance, from navigating the college application process to training for college and career preparedness
  • Involve students in fun hands-on, career-planning activities
  • Include training workshops for students to learn about various industries, occupations and respective salaries
  • Coach students for academic and professional success
  • Build strong, nurturing and positive relationships
  • Engage, energize and empower students to believe in their dreams and capabilities
  • Take field trips to community colleges where students can shadow college students and meet with professors

Extra-Curricular Learning

Encourage students to challenge themselves by taking online or blended college-level courses during the summer. Students can experience college academics and gauge career-oriented interests before committing to a particular higher ed institution. College-level courses can help students develop college and career-ready skills early on and even accelerate their educational path.

Although online college-level courses are available to take year-round, summer classes won't interfere with students' traditional curriculum. Without the pressures and expectations of the traditional school year, students can engage in online learning and coursework independently, following their own pace.

On-campus college-level courses is also an option for high school students. Attending college-level classes during the summer provides the opportunity for students to become immersed in the college environment and familiarize themselves with college life. Students can explore various subject matters, develop passions or even discover new interests that redirect a student to pursue a different major and career path. An introduction to college coursework can prepare students for higher education and foster a career-oriented mindset.2

Recommended for You: 3 Ways to Keep Your Students On Track to Graduate

Resources: Photo (1) High School Mentor Initiative (2) How to Take Your High School Classes to the Next Level
Other Resources: Study: High School Grads Choosing Wrong College Majors, By 2018, 60 percent of job openings will require a college education, How a High School Completion Program Increases Long-Term Success