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6 Questions to Get Your High Schooler Thinking About The Future

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When your teen enters high school, so many things suddenly become so important in their life: their grades, their social life, how many friends they have, what extracurriculars they should be a part of, how they look, etc. It is so easy for a teen to get sucked into this high school bubble without taking into consideration what comes after high school and what they are ultimately studying for: college.


As a parent, you can play a pivotal role in getting your student out of this high school bubble and start thinking about the future. After all, before they apply to college in the fall of their senior year, they need reach some conclusions about where they might want to go to college, what they might want to study, and what they see themselves doing with the rest of their lives.


The sooner your student starts thinking about these things, the sooner they can start gearing their school course list, extracurriculars, and other activities towards what they ultimately want to do. Your student’s future goals can also be enlightening for you as a parent, as you will learn a lot more about your child and how you can help them pursue their dreams.


How do you get started on a conversation about your student’s life goals and ambitions? Keep reading for some tried and true questions that will get your high schooler thinking about the future.



1. Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?

This is a good question because it will force your teen to think beyond their high school years and start thinking about what they might want to do beyond high school. This is also a question they may get asked on college interviews, so it’s good to prepare them for this question early. Keep in mind that most colleges expect to hear an answer that shows that the student is ambitious and wants to be successful. So try and make sure that your student has an answer to this question that showcases those qualities.



2. Do you know what career you might want to pursue?

There are a few typical answers to this question that you can expect to see. They include:


A very specific career (e.g. newscaster, publisher, a journalist for the New York Times, etc.): This is a great place to start! From there, you can start to ask them why they chose this career path and start brainstorming paths they can take in college to help them reach this specific career goal.


“I don’t know”: This is completely fine since most students aren’t completely sure what they want to do for the rest of their lives while they’re in high school. You can try and help them figure this out by asking what subjects they like in school and what type of tasks they really enjoy doing. Based on their answers, you can brainstorm some possible career paths that will allow them to continue pursuing their interests.


A vague answer (e.g. something in science, math, history, etc): This is also a really great place for your student to be because they can at least enter college knowing what department they want to study in. Then, they use those transformative four years of college to narrow down a more specific career path from there. At this point, you and your child should start brainstorming colleges that have good academic programs in the area of study that your child is interested in and trust that the rest will come with time.



3. If you had to start a nonprofit, what cause would it support?

This is a guide-in question that can get your student thinking about what they are passionate about and where their interests lie. You can use their answer to this question to then delve deeper into why that cause is important to them and whether they want their career to support that cause in some way.


If your student doesn’t have an answer to this question or gives a very vague answer, ask them to ponder it for a little bit and get back to you. Many students would like to imagine that they influential people with an ability to make a difference through a non-profit cause, so it shouldn’t be a huge burden on your student.

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4. Would you be happy in a job in….?

This has to be a question that is relevant to the conversation at hand. If you’re watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy with your teen, ask them if they think it’d be fun to be a surgeon. If it’s an episode of Suits, ask them if they would enjoy being a lawyer.


This question is meant to gauge a student’s interests in certain career paths so that you can see what type of career they’re leaning towards. This question will also get your teen thinking about what it would truly be like to have certain careers and do some self-exploration to see if they could imagine themselves on certain career paths.



5. What are you worried about in the future?

Students in this day and age are growing up in a high-stress, highly competitive environments where they know they will have to work hard in order to earn enough money just to survive. They are growing up in the information age, so they can google pictures from the financial crisis and poverty to see what’s at stake. Also, the population in the United States and around the globe is growing at an alarming rate, so much so that land prices are increasingly expensive, especially in cities with lots of jobs. In short, the kids of today have a lot to worry about.


Thus, this question is not so much to scare your child as it is to get them to share their concerns with you so that you can calm them down. It’s up to you as a parent to reassure your child that success is achievable and that everything will be okay as long as they work hard both in college and in life.



6. How can I help you achieve your goals?

This question not only lets your child know that you are there for them and are a reliable resource for help, but it gets your child thinking about what their future goals might be. It’s a reassurance tool that will make thinking about the future less daunting for your child.


However, we at CollegeVine recognize that this is a pretty vague question. You might get a few furrowed eyebrows and confused looks, and that’s normal. At that point, calmly explain to your child that you know that college applications are coming up pretty soon, and you want them to know that no matter what they decide college-wise, you, as a parent, are going to help them get through the application process and achieve their goals. Having that knowledge ought to be comforting for a teen.



For More Information

Need some more parental advice on the college admissions process? See these previous blog posts:


4 Ways Parents Can Help Their Teen With College Essays

7 Online College Planning Resources For Parents

Is Your High Schooler College Ready?

How Can I Help My Child Prepare For College Applications?


For more guidance about extracurriculars, college applications, and how to choose activities that best suit your high schooler, download our free guide for 9th graders, and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academicschoosing coursesstandardized testsextracurricular activitiesand much more!

Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!