She had already explained how successful she was at her high school. She would be graduating in May in the top 10% of her class. She was playing a varsity sport, and was earning a well-deserved athletic reputation.
Her parents sent her my way, ironically because she was too sure of what she wanted to do in college.
When I asked her about her initial plans, she said: ‘I’m going to go to Harvard and I’m going to be a doctor!’ Now there’s a powerful one-two punch. Case closed! No anxiety here.
Goals vs. Reality:
I wasn’t fooled by her quick answer, and deep down she wasn’t either. As we talked over the course of weeks, she expressed her anxiety and uncertainty about the upcoming college choosing season. She had created a story about her life goals, but was completely uncertain about how she would get there.
If a student’s only goal is to get into the most prestigious university (or that slight variant – the college that Dad went to) the student is overlooking the most important piece of the puzzle: herself.
Students rarely find out about themselves from taking a course. They learn how successful they are at mastering the course material, but not necessarily about who they are.
What Doesn’t work:
For many years I only used personality tests or interest inventories to guide people in selecting a career or college major. These are excellent tools but I have found them to be limited time after time. They only tell you what you think about you. And usually we aren’t always the best judge of what we do best.
An interest inventory is like a telescope looking at the night sky. You find a limit in what stars you are looking at, and that can be useful in finding out more about those individual stars. In the same way, there are many types of career, and knowing what careers fit your interests is important. But it’s not the most important thing.
A personality inventory is like a trip to the tailor. He takes many individual measurements and creates your clothing that will fit you in just the right way, reflecting your true shape as well as style. In the same way, certain careers are possible for you because of your experiences and skills. But, they may not match your outlook, or energy level, or social nature. If you are very outgoing socially, being a nuclear safety inspector tied to a cubicle may not make you happy.
What IS Most Important?
In my many years of meeting with individuals, what I’ve found most helpful to career search is the discovery of natural talents. Sometimes we can discover these in our journey through high school, or even jobs. Perhaps we find out that we are good at “packing” the car, or that we have enough foresight to make good long term plans, or that we are very good at making logical arguments to convince someone of our point of view. Such discoveries are actually measurable by assessments that focus on our abilities–the things we can do efficiently and easily.
Natural Ability testing measures talents such as classification, specialist tendencies, idea productivity, spatial relations, verbal memory, rhythm memory, visual speed, theoretical understanding. It’s a totally different way of understanding yourself that isn’t apparent from your SAT score or your high school grade point average. The Highlands Ability Battery is the tool I use to uncover a person’s innate strengths.
Return on Investment
Families spend a lot of time calculating and saving for the outlay of money that college requires. Few parents realize how little it can cost to “figure out” your college major, or to discover how your talents lead you naturally to a match on your career goals.
In articles about college costs, when one considers tuition and fees by themselves, the average class at a public college is costing: $721 for a 3-unit course. And that number rises every year. At the average private college, that same course would be $2,421, or higher.
That money is wasted if a student is unaware of himself or herself. A complete assessment of your talents and natural inclinations can cost less than cheap air fair: $500. The Highlands Ability Battery is one of those assessments I lean heavily on when it comes to helping the college student who just can’t seem to decide what they want to be when they grow up.
For peace of mind about your college tuition bill, pay attention to your return on investment.
–Shawn Hales, Psy.D.