Three Thoughtful Tips to Help High Schoolers Design Their Futures

By: Linda Hixson a Technology Teacher at Shenandoah Valley Jr/Sr High School in the Shenandoah Valley School District of Pennsylvania
Jan 26, 2021 11:00 AM ET
Blog

While moving into adulthood, teens are faced with a number of paths. Empowering students to select which path works best for them and determine how to best financially plan for the future are key to ensuring that some of their first adult decisions set them on a trajectory toward success.  

While research shows a positive connection between higher education and economic status, it’s important to recognize that the traditional route to higher education does not work for every student. However, it is critical that every student have access to information that will help them plan for whatever path they choose. Opting for traditional higher education can prove challenging for many due to the rising costs. Since the 1970s, college costs in the U.S. have tripled. Today, private school costs an average of $30,000+ per year while public college costs $22,000+ per year, according to U.S. News World Report

I work with my high school students to ensure they understand the critical role of financial planning, no matter where their future takes them. Some of the most helpful resources I’ve found are from Pathway to Financial Success in School, a program from Discover Financial Services and Discovery Education. The resources (which are all standards-aligned!) –  like the self-paced learning units – are designed for wherever learning is taking place and give educators, like me, a solid foundation to help students understand the maze of topics related to finances and a set of strategies to help them as they move through life. The best part? They are all available at no-cost!

Here are few tips on how I help my students pave their personal roadmap:

1. Encourage Students to Explore All of the Possibilities

When talking to students about post-high school plans, be sure to help them consider a diverse set of options. In the “Weighing Your Career Options” unit, students discover how to honestly discern between a job and a career, and which path is best for them. 

With an array of well-researched resources, students discover the tradeoffs of a 2- and 4-year college, as well as vocational programs, apprenticeships, and even military service. Students can effectively answer questions like: what education and/or training will I need to achieve my personal career goals? 

 It is important to recognize and reinforce that many worthwhile careers do not require a 4-year college degree. Consideration should be given to all forms of licensure, higher education, and training.

2. Connect Learning to the Real-World

Whether it is potential earnings, job availability, or educational requirements, every career has evolving needs. Help students set achievable goals and turn plans into action by connecting their existing skills and passions outside the classroom. Dig into high-level questions to get their gears going, like:

  • How does education and training impact how much money I will earn in the future?

  • Which career is right for me?

  • What will the future of this career look like?

  • What training or education do I need to make my goals become reality?

  • How do I make informed financial decisions?

Expanding their horizons helps build purpose and connection, while keeping their natural curiosities ignited. Connecting learning to the real-world means students are drafting dreams in real time and executing goals in thoughtful and productive ways.

And you don’t have to do it alone: the self-paced module series helps answer tough questions with in-depth research, ready-to-use resources, and thought-provoking questions. Within each of the eight units are 5 self-paced modules directing the students through learning, as well as supplemental educator supports and family content.

3. Engage the Village

The old African adage of “it takes a village to raise a child” is as true as ever. Families play one of the most important roles in helping to mold their children’s money habits. They serve as role models for financial behavior and can encourage their children to develop good financial habits. 

Help make a lasting educational impact by connecting what students learn in school with what they see at home. Each of the self-paced learning units offers family connection tips and insights. From conversation starters, to information about insurance, credit, and loans, the units support students as they explore the many facets of financial responsibility.

Some of the tips include:

  • Making finances visible: Nowadays many financial transactions happen without children being aware of them. If your paycheck is automatically deposited and/or your bills are paid online, your child may not recognize that these are happening. Share a recent bill with your child and discuss how it is paid. Talk about where your income goes. 

  • Setting family financial goals and tracking the progress: Perhaps your family wishes to pay off a debt or save for a big expense such as a vacation, new car, or fun experience. Discuss your family goal and provide regular updates about progress. If setbacks occur, address them and talk about how to get back on track. 

  • Reframing the message: Instead of saying, “We can’t afford that,” try, “That is not something we choose to use our money for” or “That is something we will need to save money to purchase.” Doing so places the emphasis on the financial choice rather than the availability of money. 

  • Allowing your child to make mistakes with their money: Some of the best lessons are learned from making poor choices and living with the consequences. Use these as teachable moments and discuss what can be learned and how he or she can make a better choice the next time. 

  • Admitting your own limitations: It is okay if you are still learning to have good money habits yourself or there are financial concepts you don’t understand. It’s a perfect opportunity to learn together, and to bond, with your teen. 

Above all, give students the resources they need to feel empowered to define their own goals and make their dreams come true. By encouraging them to consider financial literacy early, you can play a major role in helping students can go out into the world on a pathway of success.