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How to Help Middle Grade and High School Students Set Goals

Created by Lori Howard, Education Program Development Specialist, Office of Career and Technical Education

“Why am I taking this class?”  “Will I ever use this in real life?”  These are questions that you may hear from your child.  He or she may not understand the reasons they are taking certain courses.  Families can help children understand that much of what they learn in school may be used in college and career later in life.  When your child learns about his or her interests and begins to set goals, it can make learning more meaningful and fun.  It is important for students to set both short and long-term goals for their future, and plan how they will reach those goals.

More and more, schools are trying to find ways to help parents and students make college and career choices that will meet the needs of students.  For example, fourteen middle and high schools in New Jersey are currently involved in the Personalized Student Learning Plan (PSLP) Pilot Program.  This pilot program started on July 1, 2009 and will continue until June 30, 2012.  The PSLP pilot program provides an opportunity for schools to explore meaningful, creative and flexible ways to personalize the learning environment and help children make good college and career choices.

A student who attended a PSLP pilot school in the 2010-2011 school year had this to say:  “The PSLP program is a great opportunity to find careers that will possibly be the best match for our skills and intelligence.  It is the best way to start planning out our future by taking personality and skill surveys and searching for colleges.  I really enjoy this program as a way to help me start my life independently.”
Tips for Families:

  • Engage in regular conversations with your child about college and career goals
  • Be flexible.  Allow your child the option to change his/her career goals as time goes on
  • Help your child measure progress towards meeting his/her goals
  • The State of New Jersey offers an excellent resource to assist students and adults:  The New Jersey Career Assistance Network (NJCAN).  NJCAN is an online resource available on www.njcan.org to assist students and adults with career planning and decision making.