Self Discovery in High School: Start Your Future!Posted July 27, 2022, 10:00 am by
This article on self discovery in high school is part of TeenLife's brand new 2022 Guide to College Admissions. Featuring more than a dozen articles from college pros and admissions experts, this new TeenLife guide is the perfect resource for tackling college admissions head on. Download it for free today!
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Parents ask it. Students wonder about it. And most of us have asked ourselves this question more than once. When you’re younger, the answers take a predictable route, influenced most by what and who you know.
In middle school and high school this question gets more real. In college, most of us get serious about finding answers, only to realize that the stakes and costs are higher. There’s a reason 80% of college students change majors at least once, some as many as six times. Today, many students stay in college longer than needed and pay more for the experience — mentally and financially.
There’s a better time and approach to answering this question. And it begins with understanding you.
The Value of Self-Assessments for Self-Discovery in High School
Students who start with an assessment find this question much easier to tackle. With the right self-assessment, you:
- Learn about yourself. When you know more about yourself, you can find new ways to describe yourself on college admissions essays and your resume.
- Think more critically about what matters to you and what you really want to do. At the very least, looking at the results of an assessment gets you out of your head and causes you to look at things from another angle. This naturally makes you think about what matters to you and where you want your future path to take you.
- Reinforce your career choice or empower yourself with new options. The best assessments include career matches based on what’s being assessed, whether personality, interest, aptitudes, or all of these. That can reinforce what you’ve always wanted to be when you grow up. It can also expose you to careers you may have never thought about, didn’t think you could do, or maybe never heard of.
There’s really no reason not to self-assess in high school. But which assessment do you choose? There are three primary types of college and career assessments available — personality assessments, interest assessments, and aptitude assessments. A few assess two or more of these.
Personality and Interest Assessments are Better than no Assessment
A personality test assesses your basic motivations, emotional make up, and how you interact with people — things like openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Understanding your personality is important when thinking about careers. For instance, if you are an introvert you may struggle to find satisfaction in a career in sales. This will save you a lot of time and frustration.
An interest test assesses preferences. Understanding your interests can be useful to a degree. But there are risks in aligning your career choices to interests. For example, you can only have an interest in something you’re exposed to. Let’s say you would make an amazing informatics nurse specialist. If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not likely going to pursue it.
Many adults used personality and interest tests to guide their career choices, only to realize mid-career that they’re unhappy and stuck. What’s the secret? Start by basing your choice on something more solid than personality or interests. Start with aptitudes.
Why Aptitudes are a Better Foundation
An aptitude is the natural ability to perform or learn in a given area. Your aptitudes matter because, unlike your interests, aptitudes are hard wired. Interests change based on what you’re exposed to. Aptitudes solidify by age 14.
An aptitude assessment taken during high school and used for college and career guidance uncovers your natural abilities and shows career options you may have never considered. In one study that compared aptitude-based career choices to interest-based choices, 70% of female high school students showed interest in arts, education, social work, and life sciences careers. But only 20% had the natural aptitude for those careers. 50% of those students weren’t wired to do well in those careers yet were considering them. If pursued, they would likely find those careers difficult and unsatisfying.
Reasons to choose an aptitude-based assessment:
- According to the research from The University of Missouri, interests are influenced by perceived “societal norms” that limit the scope of students’ career exploration.
- Aptitude assessment that includes matching careers cut through social noise and biases and show you careers you’re wired to do well — ones you may have never considered or even heard about.
- Having a solid idea of what you can do and exploring career options before college can save you time, wasted money, and wasted college credits when you start and end with the same major.
Know Yourself through Self Discovery
Many schools have different assessments, such as YouScience Discovery. If your school offers a self discovery opportunity like this, take it. Once you’ve taken it, get with your counselor or teacher to help understand and apply your results to both classes and post-high school planning. If your school doesn’t offer one, find an aptitude assessment and take it on your own. The cost is low, the value high.
These tests should measure your aptitudes as they relate to job performance and satisfaction. The best ones use proven methods to uncover your aptitudes, interests, and personality and show you matching careers along with why those careers are a match for you.
There is no reason to struggle with the answer to, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” When you know yourself, you have a clearer path and the confidence to pursue it.