My Teenager Doesn't Know What to Study After High School

If your teenager doesn't know what to study after high school, a starting point may be to search for information and explore their interests. Learn more.
My Teenager Doesn't Know What to Study After High School

Last update: 24 July, 2022

“But can you at least narrow it down a little?” the adults ask. “Yes, I like math. But also theater and biology,” the teen answers. The last year of school arrives and many families don’t know what to do because their teenage child doesn’t know what to study in college. In their answers, there’s a combination of interests and ideas, some of which seem incompatible. We know that this isn’t a simple choice and, in many cases, it’s the first important decision that the young person will make.

We’re going to tell you how to accompany them better, so keep reading!

How to accompany a teenager who doesn’t know what to study after high school

A teenager feeling overwhelmed with his studies.
Not all young people want to study. Some do, but they’re not sure which path to follow. In either case, the accompaniment and guidance of parents are essential.

Some recommendations to keep in mind to accompany a teenager when choosing what to study are the following:

  • Encourage them to think about their interests, those activities they like to do and enjoy. Also help them think about what their skills and abilities are, so they can discover what they’re good at. At the same time, you can suggest that they sign up for some activities related to their interests to explore how they feel doing them. Finally, find out where their motivation comes from, because sometimes choices are related to the only thing they know, leaving out a universe of possibilities. Conversations are good opportunities to explore ideas behind choices.
  • Instruct them to seek information from a variety of sources. College websites aren’t the only valid sites. They can also check blogs, professional association portals, and others. The more diverse the sources, the better. Then, you can ask them to tell you what they’ve read and what they think about it. This way, you’ll be able to guide them and clear up some doubts.
  • Offer them an expanded view of what the profession and the job are all about. It’s not about young people thinking about the career in absolute or exclusive terms, such as liking what they do versus earning money. We must try to make both ideas compatible, otherwise, we end up romanticizing or demonizing certain situations. Share your own experiences, in light of successes and mistakes, to convey realistic images.
  • Suggest that they talk to students, practicing professionals, and, if possible, retired professionals. This way, your child will be able to get different perspectives on their chosen profession. That is, a realistic and practical view that goes beyond the academic program. They’ll also be able to get different perspectives on the profession over time, which often change according to trends and the demands of society.
  • Recommend that they participate in student work activities and volunteer programs. This way, they’ll also gain exposure to other skills that are required in the world of work and become more oriented.
  • Offer them a space for understanding and dialogue, where you can make it clear that people and life choices change. It’s important to take advantage of this moment to explore and discover themselves and also, to understand that a mistake isn’t a failure, but a learning experience.
  • Take away the pressure of having to make the right decision “once and for all”. They need to know that the conversation isn’t limited to a single moment, but that the most valuable thing is to follow up on ideas and opinions about it.
  • Respect their time and thoughts. This doesn’t mean putting off the decision forever, but learning to control your own anxieties and fears. Understand that every choice requires a search and maturation and that each young person has their uniqueness and moments.

You may be interested in: My Child Doesn’t Want to Go to College

A teen packing for college.
Sometimes, families can accompany their children to study to the college or in the city of their choice. But this isn’t the same for everyone and part of the choice has to be adjusted to the economic reality of each household.

On the “reality check” of vocational and occupational choices

It’s to be expected that an adolescent won’t know exactly what to study when they finish school. And even if they do, it’s normal that the path is neither linear nor simple.

This is so because there are multiple factors involved in the choice and it’s illusory to believe that it’s only a matter of preference. In fact, there are material conditions that facilitate or impede certain paths, as well as certain health conditions and social prejudices about some professions.

The choice of a college major or career path doesn’t occur in a vacuum, but there’s a context that influences, defines, and accompanies the decision. That’s why, as adults, we must also be realistic and clear about how we’re going to accompany them. Beyond the desires of the adolescent are the real and concrete possibilities of their family.

Review your own messages on what your child will study after high school

In addition to the above recommendations, it’s worth noting the importance of stopping for a minute to think about what we transmit to our children on the subject. That’s to say, to reflect on what we think about professions, work, and vocational choices.

Many times, we receive “packaged” beliefs and concepts and we pass them down to our children without thinking about the underlying values and ideas.

We must also be able to understand that the world is changing and that today’s work challenges and professional demands are different from those of the past. Rather than thinking about transmitting mandates, let’s try to transmit crucial values, such as commitment, responsibility, and effort. Values that, in the long run, are the ones that they’ll be able to maintain and apply in any situation, regardless of the path they choose.

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  • Llerena Carpio, E. Y. (2019). Influencia de los padres de familia en la elección vocacional de los estudiantes del nivel secundaria de la institución educativa 40194 “Ricardo Palma” de Secocha del distrito de Mariano Nicolás Valcárcel-Camaná, Arequipa 2018.