Is Your Senior Stuck? Six Things to Try if Your High School Senior is Still Searching for What’s Next

Posted November 29, 2022

About mid-year, high school seniors and parents alike can really start to sweat when there are a lot of future decisions still unmade. The pressure to figure out what’s next can be off the charts, especially when a kid has no clue and they feel like every other person is asking about their plans. The last thing you want is for your kid to make a snap decision they’ll later regret — or just do what a friend is doing — because it seems safe.

Here are six suggestions that could help your child get on an affordable path that fits their talents and interests.

1. Help your child focus first on the types of work they think they would enjoy doing.

Too often kids focus on where they (or their friends) are going to school, and don’t focus first on what they want to learn from a post-secondary experience.

A good exercise to start brainstorming about what they’d like to learn would be to think about classes, volunteer work or jobs they’ve enjoyed in the past, and what skills they learned from those experiences. Some prompts you could ask to get your senior thinking might include:

  • Did you enjoy that ____ club you participated in? 
  • Did you like helping _____ solve that problem about _______? 
  • What did you enjoy learning about the most in high school? 
  • Would you like to work inside or outside in your job?
  • Do you envision a career sitting at a computer or moving around all day?
  • Which types of problems do you like to solve?

The answers to these questions might help you generate a list of possible skills that relate to careers. Do a YouTube search for jobs that share those skills, like “jobs in robotics,” “jobs fixing cars” or “jobs that use computers.” Encourage your child to watch some videos looking for something that they might like to learn.

Once they have a better idea of the skills they’re interested in building upon, visit and do a keyword search to find schools and colleges in Kansas that offer training in those job areas.

2. Get real-world experience!

It’s not too late to schedule a job shadow or internship to see what it might be like to work in a particular field. Hanging around and talking for a couple of hours with an adult with an interesting job might nurture your kid’s interest or help them cross that idea off the list. If they find a job that’s intriguing to them, the next step could be to ask that employer if they have any part-time, entry-level positions available. Don’t overlook friends, family members or personal connections who might be willing to host your child for a half-day and talk with them about their job. Once your senior has a possible career in mind, research what types of skills or credentials they’d need. A good place to start that search is on or by using other career-exploration software like Xello.

3. Consider apprenticeships.

Kansas is creating many new opportunities to enter career paths through apprenticeships — and young people in apprenticeships often get paid good money while learning their new trade! Apprenticeships are available in Kansas in fields ranging from construction trades to health care. Some even include partnerships with community or technical colleges to help students also earn an associate degree as part of their experience. Most programs are free or very low cost to the apprentice. Visit the KANSASWORKS website to start looking for your perfect match! 

4. Check into a job-first enrollment program.

Technical schools are starting to work with private industry to help employers hire and train good workers. With job-first enrollment programs — such as this one started by WSU Tech — young people get hired for a job, then get paid while learning and working at the company.

5. Find a list of high-demand jobs and consider what it would take to become eligible for them.

Jobs that are in high demand are often jobs that employers really need to fill, so they might have opportunities for tuition reimbursement, pay-to-learn options, apprenticeships or other sorts of training incentives to help a young person get started. Go to the Kansas Career Navigator and click on your area of the state (or wherever your senior would like to live) to get a top-10 list of careers employers need in your area. Each of the jobs is clickable to learn more about that line of work. You can also explore stories and videos featuring Kansas workers in different fields who share their advice about how a young person can get started on a similar career path.

6. Schedule a campus visit to a technical or community college.

A lot of young people have no idea of the options for training available to them in their own community or close by, and how those academic programs correlate to great careers. Call your nearest educational institution to see if you can arrange a tour and a visit with a professional career counselor. With the Kansas Promise Scholarship, there may even be ways for your child to earn the credential or training they need with no out-of-pocket expense. 

Senior year is an emotional roller-coaster for parents and kids alike! Enjoy the experience as much as you can and rest assured your child eventually will figure out the best path — even if it takes a little trial and error. Stay positive, do your research and trust that your kid will eventually land exactly where they need to be.