Tips for Parents for Teens Making a CAO Application
With the CAO deadline fast approaching, sometimes I hear students say ‘I’m not sure what I want or if I’m making the right decisions for me’. When I hear these words I take note. They are actually expressing the right thing – career direction and course choice should be about what is right for them and not just what course they will get into.
Unfortunately, with the focus so much on escalating points for college courses, young people can easily lose sight of their personal goals and confuse their critical questions about ‘what I want to be or do’ with instead, ‘what course will I get into’. This can be a cause for despair and a lack of motivation that doesn’t help their studies either.
So, for parents in this situation, here are some simple tips I can share to help you and your teen:
Dedicate Some Time to an Indepth Conversation
It is absolutely vital that the young person has a one-to-one conversation about their interests, their dreams and their goals. They deserve this dedicated time. They have much to contribute to the world and their contribution is needed. Where they can align an area of deep personal interest with a career direction is particularly noteworthy but, this is not always possible, so further exploration may be needed.
Setting up a consultation with an experienced, open-minded career guidance person, used to working with students, is advised. Where a student cannot be easily guided, psychometric testing may be recommended. Psychometric tests, depending on the selected test, are an objective measure of personality, interests, work style/ environment, values and ability. They can propose a range of suitable careers to match the person’s profile and ability. Only an accredited tester is qualified to administer and interpret these tests.
This approach, matched with the subjective one-to-one conversation can be a very effective way to coach the young person. Frequently schools’ career guidance counsellors are snowed under due to heavy caseloads so it may be necessary to pursue a private provider for this purpose.
Time to Rank
Students often vacillate between a few areas of interest but are unsure which to pick and in what order. This calls for a ranking exercise of their selected career areas, in order of their priority.
The listener, be it guidance counsellor, parent, teacher or friend, should always ask the ‘why’ question – why does this interest you, why do you want it, which do you want more. Hearing their reasons articulated out loud can help them make up their own mind.
I saw this work to great effect recently for a Leaving Cert student. She was toying with the idea of studying Agricultural Science and Food Systems – by the end of the career exploration session she was convinced that she was making the right choice and left with a pep in her step!