Guiding Your Teen Through Chutes and Ladders: Embracing Change and Navigating Toward College Success

November 16, 2023

Finding your way along the ever-changing path to – and through – college with your teenager feels a bit like playing the old game of Chutes and Ladders. In an instant, an obstacle can send them down a perilous “chute” making the goal of graduating seem even farther away, while landing on a ladder can feel impossible. Many of the common obstacles relate to how teens change their academic and career interests.

It’s natural for teens to change their minds more than adults. And in many cases, that’s a positive sign. It signals an active and engaged mind. Nevertheless, trying to navigate these changes, especially with intended major, can be tough on parents. I’ve seen that a lot, so I try to help families plan for changes. I remind them of the cliché, “the only constant is change.” I also share that I had 4 different majors in college, but thankfully, still managed to graduate in 4 years.

Regardless of whether your teen has a crystal-clear career plan or is still searching, here’s some straightforward advice to help them thrive:

  1. Recognize that change is an essential part of personal growth. Encourage your teen to be open to new experiences, subjects, and opportunities. It’s normal for their interests to evolve as they discover their talents and academic preferences.
  2. While pursuing their current interests, advise your child to keep an open mind and explore various colleges. Opt for institutions that offer a diverse range of programs and resources. This way, they’ll be better prepared to adapt if their academic plans take a different turn.
  3. Help your teen understand that they are not defined by a single career path or major. Encourage them to avoid being a “one trick pony” and to explore their passions while keeping the door open to different possibilities. College is a place to grow and evolve, both academically and personally.
  4. Encourage your teenager to stay informed about the changing world, including political, technological, and environmental developments. This awareness will help them make informed decisions about their academic and career choices.
  5. Support their journey by providing unwavering support and reassurances. Offer a listening ear, share your own experiences, and be a source of encouragement.

Remember that change is a natural and necessary part of life. By guiding your college-bound teen with these principles in mind, you can help them make the most of their educational experience, build a great resume and better position them for embracing a dynamic career. After all, isn’t that what we all need in this changing world?

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