Smooth Moves: Transitioning from High School to College to Career

Smooth Moves: Transitioning from High School to College to Career


As parents of teens, it’s easy to get incredibly busy. Kids who used to have similar schedules to us now seem to have even busier schedules than we do, and the stakes seem to be rising. While trying to finish out high school successfully, right behind the “busy work” is our real desire to create meaningful high school experiences and translate those into meaningful college and career experiences.


We asked our good friend, Catherine Perna Saum of Expert Tutoring and College Counseling, for some tips on prepping your teen for ending high school, transitioning into college and thinking about their career dynamically.



Catherine’s mission is to help high school students find the right activities that will provide them with a meaningful student experience and eventually a fulfilling career. She finds that kids are often shocked by her focus on helping them discover and do more of what they love.


“They think my counseling service will push them for better grades or a perfect high school resume of sorts, but I see no sense in moving through high school without enjoying it.”

For parents helping teens transition from high school to college to a career, here are three tips from the expert:


1. Get Real

Getting some hands-on experience in a field of interest can be invaluable. If your teen is interested in the medical field, look for service opportunities to volunteer at a nursing home or local hospital. Looking more deeply, you may be able to find multiple short-term job shadowing opportunities. Being open to experiences in the field, but not necessarily a direct connection to their exact area of interest, can still be incredibly valuable to get exposure to other potential careers.


Once in college, this can tremendously help students be taken seriously for more valuable and in-depth volunteer internships, paid internships or highly sought after job shadowing opportunities. It’s important to talk to your college student about continuing their connection to their industry of choice, not just to secure a great job coming out of college, but also as a continual refinement of their understanding of what kind of career they will truly find fulfilling.


2. Pre-Game It

Getting to “try out college” before actually going to college can be an incredibly wise investment. Many schools offer one summer class specially designed with the high school student in mind. They can live on campus, get a few college credits and try out the experience in about three weeks.

The outcome may not be choosing to forgo college in the end, but it may result in a realization like, “Hey, I thought a business degree was for me, but this is terribly boring.” On the other side, it can reconfirm a commitment to a field and get your teen excited for college, but with a bit of experience under their belt, they arrive on campus in the fall a little more comfortable in their new surroundings. Keep this in mind when your new college student talks about changing schools or changing their degree. Before a big decision, pre-gaming it might be the right solution!


3. Be Flexible

Parents of teens, and especially new college students, don’t typically want to hear their kids musing about seemingly unrelated fields. By encouraging conversation about different avenues to explore, you can give your student a much better grasp on how their studies lead to actual careers they might find interesting. Catherine points out,


“You never want to go into college declaring a major that you’ve had no experience with."

Even if your student gets hands-on opportunities and pre-games their experience, they are still teens in need of guidance. Catherine reminds us as parents that,


“College preparation is about knowing that when your student leaves home, they go with the most direction possible. Part of that preparation is also reaffirming to them that they can still change their minds, but that you’re there to help them along the way.”

Even with great preparation, once in college, parents might hear rumblings about changing majors. It’s difficult not to hear dollars falling out of your pockets (or theirs) every time the subject comes up, but it’s not too late to help your college student test new ideas out. Encouraging them to take one class before changing majors, or committing to a summer internship can help them gain the confidence (and allay your fears) about making a change that is as meaningful as it is specific.


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