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Helping Your Students Navigate Their Educational Journey

With the changing landscape of education, it is more important than ever to support students throughout every point in their journey. Even without the challenges that the pandemic brings to education, students can have trouble setting priorities as their educational narrative develops. As educators, advisors, mentors, and parents, we have a responsibility to stay honed-in on what’s relevant, all while being mindful of what is truly important to a student’s development.   

Below are a few great tips to help students stay centered, learn more about who they are through experience, and become actively invested in their future. 

Create Opportunities to Self-Reflect  

The middle and high school years tend to be a period where students are highly influenced by the decisions of others. Giving students the opportunity to self-reflect in an encouraging environment could be exactly what they need to ignite their passions.   

In their book, Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, Arthur L. Kosta and Bena Kallick concur that “Reflecting on experiences encourages insight and complex learning. We foster our growth when we control our learning, so some reflection is best done alone. Reflection is also enhanced, however, when we ponder our learning with others.” As educators and advisors, asking the right questions and “digging deeper” can help unlock a student’s potential and help them understand the many opportunities that lie ahead. 

Make Them a Vital Part in Their Trajectory 

Future-planning, especially in a pandemic, can feel like a daunting task. Pair the unpredictability of the world with teenage angst and you’ve got yourself a true challenge. The earlier we can get students to invest in themselves, their education, and their interests—the easier the planning process will be.  

With so many job choices out there, helping students to understand the connection between interests, majors, and careers can help narrow their scope. The Resilient Educator suggests focusing on common tools like research into potential careers, assessment tests that tap into students’ interests and abilities such as Myers-Briggs, as well as more unique experiential learning opportunities that can even be adapted during the pandemic. While during a traditional year, “Job Shadow” opportunities might be more accessible, don’t forget many employers are still happy to have support virtually. Students can seek out remote opportunities to contribute to local organizations and get a sense of the day-to-day roles and responsibilities. Virtual career panels are also a great way for students to ask questions and better understand the academic and career paths of professionals firsthand. 

Showcase the Value of Experiential Learning 

It’s nothing new that experiential education adds value to a student’s academic portfolio. It can propel a student forward by showcasing their understanding of the world. In a recent article in the Liberal Education, a publication of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Janet Eyler, noted that the challenge for educators is “to design learning environments and instruction so that students will be able to use what they learn in appropriate new contexts.” She went on to note that “effective citizenship requires students to be knowledgeable, to be able to use what they know, to have the capacity for critical analysis, and to be equipped for lifelong learning.” 

Experiential learning, like Summer Discovery’s pre-college programs, in partnership with top universities, provide students with the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of subject matter both inside and outside the classroom. Through hands-on, project-based instruction, engaging activities, and diverse and immersive culture, students can begin to make educated decisions about their future.  

Support the Pivot 

“Pivot” was certainly a buzzword for 2020 and it’s here to stay. Supporting students as they navigate their interests throughout high school can feel like a roller coaster. In a recent article in College Parent Central, Vicki Nelson summarized the findings of a study conducted by NACE: National Association of Colleges and Employers, which noted that: 

  • 66% of students choose their major based on a career in which they are interested 
  • 12% say they “drifted” into a major 
  • 9% say they were inspired by a particular teacher or professor 
  • 7% chose a major based on earning potential 
  • 6% say they were influenced by friends and family 

It is clear a student’s interest and the basis for a college choice and major can be heavily influenced. Encourage students to be open-minded and explore different career pathways. Capitalizing on Winter, Spring, and/or Summer breaks throughout high school will be critical to base their decisions on facts and experience. 

Encourage Authenticity 

Lastly, but arguably the most important, be a sounding board. As counselors, educators, advisors, and parents, you are naturally expert listeners. Students may need to think through their opportunities and weigh the pros and cons of upcoming decisions. Your expert opinion holds value and presenting them with questions and potential outcomes can help them arrive at the best decision. As a cheerleader on their educational journey, it’s important to remind them to be true to themselves while they root their decisions in their own best interest. 

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