EdCuration Blog: Learning in Action

Strengths-Based College and Career Exploration Strategies for K-12 Educators

Aug 4, 2022 2:49:25 PM / by EdCuration Staff Writer


Need to Know

  • College and career exploration should begin in elementary school and continue throughout students’ K-12 journey in order to support them in better preparing for their futures.
  • By starting college and career exploration conversations with student interests, strengths, and questions, educators set students up for stronger classroom engagement.

A Closer Look

On average, US college graduates are taking longer to graduate, only to leave college with about $40,000 in debt. In a world where there are literally thousands of career options, how can the average eighteen-year-old be expected to have a clear idea of their college aspirations and career interests by the end of their K-12 education? Typically, college and career exploration are topics educators, students, and families begin thinking about in high school. At that point, however, two-thirds of a child’s K-12 education is over. What if we supported students from an early age in discovering their passions, learning styles, and goals?


Why Early College and Career Exploration?

Without a sense of purpose and opportunities for application, student interest in learning wanes. It’s been reported that US student engagement drops from 74% in fifth grade to a meager 33% in tenth grade. To stay engaged, students need real-world connections between academic content, their own interests, and the futures they see for themselves. CEOs add that they currently struggle to find adequately prepared talent for available positions and see huge gaps in employability skills. By starting the college and career exploration process at an early age, we are setting students up for more engaging K-12 experiences, more impactful college experiences, and more successful careers. Check out Xello’s blog for additional insight – this post offers college preparation advice and this one sheds more light on the importance of career exploration. Read on for ways to explore colleges and careers with your students, from kindergarten to senior year.


Incorporating College and Career Exploration Into Your Classroom

  1. Identify personal interests, strengths and talents. Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Identifying potential college and career matches starts with self-reflection. What are the student’s interests and hobbies? Where do their natural abilities lie? When do they feel most “in flow”? Try a personal interest and strength inventory and support students in connecting those interests to potential careers. By starting career exploration conversations here, you automatically build investment because students are beginning from a place of confidence and joy.

  2. Connect academic strengths and learning styles to career pathways. When a student understands the type of learner they are, they unleash their potential in school, extracurriculars, and beyond. The path created through career exploration is unique for every student and by exploring early and often, students will have a clearer understanding if they are bound for 2- or 4-year college, apprenticeship, or heading straight to work. Xello’s career Matchmaker assessment helps students critically think about and rank their interests. Their results will help them identify their personality and learning styles.

  3. Explore high-growth, high-interest careers. An essential consideration in career exploration is a career’s potential for growth. As artificial intelligence and advancing technologies increasingly automate human tasks, students looking for future success must be coached to discern which pathways have high-growth potential. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics clearly identifies career options with huge opportunities for growth. From there, backwards map colleges and trainings that emphasize preparing for these pathways.

  4. Discuss college and career options with a variety of trusted adults. This can include classroom teachers, counselors, parents, mentors, and neighbors. Encourage students to ask adults about their careers, what they like most, necessary skills, and tips for success. Take advantage of any opportunity that arises for your students to hear authentic advice and perspectives from working adults. Invite guest speakers and encourage students to interview professionals they meet. Seek insight into the steps professionals took before starting their career – how they vetted college or training options, types of classes they took, and professional development they found most helpful.

  5. Capture ongoing personal inventories, progress, and findings. Support students in developing a college and career exploration journal, log, or portfolio that grows with them during their academic career. By having quick access to information like personality quiz results, university profiles, career interview notes, and more, students develop a stronger sense of personal identity and can investigate more aligned career pursuits. Take a tour through Xello’s platform to see how students can build a comprehensive college and career readiness portfolio across their K-12 education.

For even more college and career exploration ideas, check out this free ebook from Xello and try a new strategy with your students! With solutions ranging from elementary to middle and high school, Xello has a tool for every educator and student in their future readiness pursuits. Get a peek into Xello’s range of intuitive features and see why they have been repeatedly recognized in the education industry as a leading program for college and career readiness!

Topics: Elementary Education, Secondary Education, College & Career Readiness, 21st Century Skills

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