According to a recent survey required of incoming freshmen at Ball State University, 37 percent said they were unclear about why they were in college. BSU’s Career Center staff will be reaching out to these students who are called “vocationally at risk” to help them put together a career action plan. Without such intervention and support, these students would likely change majors at least once, prolonging the time they spend in college and increasing the likelihood they would enter a career that was unsatisfying and unfulfilling.
I think it is great that Ball State is taking a proactive role to help its students find the right career path; but I can’t help but wonder why such thoughtful and supportive measures didn’t happen sooner in these students’ academic journey. After all, they spent the last four years in high school taking the various coursework that would prepare them to successfully apply and be accepted into an institution of higher learning. At what point along that road might a caring and perceptive adult have paused to ask each student: “Exactly what is it that you would like to do with your life? What career do you aspire to? What sort of higher education is going to be necessary for you to pursue in order to meet your goal?”
Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer counselors in our high schools; and the ones remaining are overwhelmed with all the duties that fall upon them. The American School Counselors Association recommends a ratio of 250 students to 1 counselor. In 2008-2009, the national average was actually 457 to 1; and in Indiana, it was even worse at 540 to 1. With diminishing state education dollars, it is not likely those numbers will change anytime soon. That is why is so important that the other caring adults in young people’s lives—parents, mentors, youth workers, pastors, coaches, and extended family to name a few–step up and pose those important career questions to the young people they care about. Posing those questions may be the first step in helping a young person identify their future–and helping them get on the right path that will lead them to success in college, work, and life.