Authored by Ganesh Kohli, Founding President, IC3 and 2019 Annual IC3 Conference Chair

High school years are full of growth, promise, motivation, frustration, hope and much more. It’s the time when students begin to discover what the future holds for them and what they’re capable of. This can be a complex and confusing process to navigate, through the countless programs, study options, and career paths. How can this be simplified, and who can play a critical role in guiding this decision? 

During these pivotal years, high school counselors have a profound impact by collaborating with school staff, parents and the community to provide students with the most insightful and up-to-date knowledge on course and career choices. Very often, however, in India and Southeast Asia, we find that young people don’t realize their true potential. Students tend to end up in the wrong fields due to a predominantly missing career and college counseling department in most high schools. 

With the 21st century becoming a defining period of evolving technology and social change, why are we using outdated traditional ways to find a university or career path for these students? Evidence of this is that fact that over 40% of students say they prefer “safer” subject options like STEM, which is majorly due to the lack of awareness of opportunities that other vocational courses offer. This antiquated way of thinking is pushing students into careers they’re not interested in.  

Career and college counseling is critical and essential for student success and helps them achieve optimal personal growth, set informed career goals and realize their full academic potential to become productive, contributing members of the world community. 

Here are some key areas highlighting the criticality of this type of counseling, and why it is needed in all high schools, for every student: 

Student Stress Levels Rising Rapidly

In a recent research study by the IC3 Conference, a staggering 70% of counselors felt parents and students are highly stressed about career-related decisions. Moreover, 68% of students said having a dedicated career counseling office would be the most important action their school can take to lessen their stress, and help their decision about college. In another survey, 77% of industry professionals felt that fewer than 40% of new graduates have a good understanding of the careers they wish to pursue.  

It’s evident that students need more career counseling help. This process must begin in high schools, by providing a dedicated counseling center. 

Experts Are Needed to Make Sense of Vast Study Options

Decisions made in high school can make or break a student’s career. Experienced career counselors are trained to understand student thinking and potential. Once a student’s potential is understood, the counselor can guide them to their best-fit career and college. Students don’t mind asking for help and we must ensure they’re getting it from counselors, and not just from peer sources. A path followed by their peers might not help them reach the same destination. To help students choose what’s right for them, career counselors must be made available for students everywhere. Responsible counseling is about helping students find answers to three important questions: 1. What to study, 2. Where to study, and 3. How to make it happen. Counseling should not only manage the process of applying but more importantly, provide guidance for students in making these important decisions. 

Counselors Help to Discover the Career Path Right for YOU

There is no one better equipped than a school counselor to understand students’ needs, abilities, and goals. In order for a student to discover the right career path, they must understand what course to take and if their capabilities match their interests. A student might want to pursue architecture because of an aptitude for math, and a belief that drawing won’t be difficult to master. In reality, there is much more to architecture than that. Having a counselor’s guidance will help that student understand the complexities of that profession, so they can enter into coursework calm and prepared, not overwhelmed and wanting to switch majors by the end of the first semester. 

Counselors Explain Non-traditional or Unique Career Opportunities

Most Indian students choose subjects according to the scores they obtain and what their parents or family think is right for them, rather than what is aligned to their own interests. For example, many students whose parents and grandparents have had careers in the field of medicine often assume that the future generations will traverse the same path. Contrary to their assumption, these children may indeed have other career interests, and this can lead to a lot of friction in families. Or, by focusing on test scores alone, selecting a career this way can often lead to students becoming employees who don’t relate well to their jobs, or may feel disgruntled with their work rather quickly. They may not have had school counseling, which contributed to them choosing an ill-fitting career path. To remedy this, career guidance and planning exercises in schools encourage students to understand their interests, aptitudes, and goals to better choose the appropriate career. When students are so accustomed to how things have been done historically, they’re reluctant to explore their innate qualities and strengths and therefore limit their own potential. The work of a counselor can combat this and support all students’ academic achievements, helping them to grow and prepare for the constantly changing career fields in the 21st century with a sense of purpose. 

Interests + Fulfilling Profession = Happiness 

Around 65% of people are disengaged with their jobs. The reason? Their interests and abilities were not fully explored in school. Collectively, we spend one-third or more of our lives at work, yet more than half of the workforce is unhappy, which leaves us with a big epidemic. It’s time to build a career guidance movement for counseling in all high schools. So instead of picking majors or careers based on test scores, choices can be based on nurtured interests that grow into fulfilling professions.  

Career counseling is ongoing in various aspects of your life, most importantly to achieve personal career goals and aspirations. You wouldn’t get behind the wheel and try to drive without the proper education and training on how a vehicle operates, so why do we allow students to make some of the most important decisions of their lives without an expert to mentor them? The International Career & College Counseling (IC3) Movement aims to change this imbalance and enable high schools to have fully functional career and college counseling departments in high school, so students can have access to the counseling they need to make the right higher education and career decisions perfect for them.