In this blog, we’ll explore how an aptitude test can simplify and save your student’s college planning. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a parent who’s preparing to send their child to college. If so, you’ve likely discovered that applying to college is less exhilarating and more of an endless juggle of deadlines, research, and time-consuming tedium. When you were your child’s age, it wasn’t this hard. However, the world of college admissions has evolved with the times. New layers of complexity are at play that weren’t present when most parents enrolled in college. And without a solid admissions strategy, or, even worse, with an outdated admission strategy, you risk wasting a ton of money, years of your student’s life, and landing your student with a degree they won’t use and a job they hate.

Avoid the expensive college planning mistake most Arkansas Families make

Before we delve into the aptitude test solution, let’s first consider the heart of the problem that’s plaguing most students in Arkansas. Most people plan for college using the model below. Admittedly, this is the opposite of how you choose a college. Yet, most Arkansans (and most Americans) follow this model:

  1. Pick a College
  2. Declare a College Major
  3. Choose a Career

On the surface, this makes sense. Go to college, take some classes, major in the classes you enjoy, then look for jobs you might like in that major. This may seem like a natural, organic way to navigate through the college process, and it may have worked twenty years ago when earning a bachelor’s degree held more professional weight. In the current college admission climate though, this path is, as the poets say, “fraught with peril.” 

Why choosing a college before your career doesn’t work 

  • It increases your student’s chance of changing majors which… 
  • often adds another 1-2 years to complete their undergraduate degree which…
  • ends up costing parents and students between $21,000 – $50,000 more. 

This costs students time and parents money. Furthermore, it may severely increase your child’s burden of student loan debt. 

The simple solution for every Arkansas Parent

To optimize your student’s college experience, you simply reverse the order of the previous model. Instead of picking a college, declaring a major, and choosing a career, follow these steps in this order:

  1. Choose a Career
  2. Declare a College Major
  3. Pick a College

By working backward, your student can not only save their time and your money, but it also makes applying to college INFINITELY easier. 

Let’s say your student wants to be a chemical engineer. Unless they’re planning on becoming a highly specialized chemical engineer (biomedical, cellular, genetic, etc), they choose to major in chemical engineering. When this student and their family look for colleges, they filter their college search by looking for the most reputable chemical engineering programs said student can get into and that fits their family’s budget. You’ve saved countless hours of research and have likely saved a ton of money by focusing on career fit first.  

But how can my student possibly choose a career?

A reasonable question. But behind that honest inquiry lies the assumption that causes us the most anxiety. Most high school students have little to no work experience. Thus, it’s nearly impossible for a teenager by themselves to know which career best suits them. The keywords here are “by themselves.” By themselves, picking a college and college major will always be a gamble for Arkansas students. But with the right tools and guidance, this challenge becomes an opportunity that results in students finding the right school, the right major, and eventually the perfect career.

A tool that makes preparing for college easier

As with any task, there exist tools to make jobs easier. It’s more efficient to drive a nail through a wall with the aid of a hammer just as traveling is made quicker by riding a horse and more comfortable by driving a car. Tools are great. I’m using one now. I couldn’t write this article without the aid of my laptop, and I couldn’t post it online without using the internet. Without tools, life is exponentially more challenging. With tools, we’re more productive, life is easier, and we’re able to learn and accomplish more than we otherwise could by ourselves.

Use an advanced Aptitude Test to choose a Career Path

The tool that will help your student is an advanced aptitude test, with emphasis on “advanced.” Many of the parents in Central Arkansas I work with still give me weird looks when I recommend they trust any portion of their child’s future to a “test.” However, we believe aptitude assessments remain the most empirically effective way to begin the process of matching your student with their dream job, and then their dream school. Because when you pick the right assessment, it becomes an essential resource you’ll use throughout the college preparation process.

How an Aptitude Test helps your student Prepare for College

  • Aptitude tests don’t measure interests, which are fascinations we have that, while important, change regularly over time. 
  • Aptitude tests measure abilities, which are cognitive talents that don’t change over time.
  • Due to the nature of how aptitude tests are administered (using advanced work samples and innovative problem-solving exercises), they can measure concrete talents that predispose people to excel at certain tasks and, by extension, careers. 
  • Depending on the assessment, they’ll show which foreign languages will be easier to learn and which musical instruments that will come easier to them.

Okay, sounds good! Which Aptitude Test should my child take?

There are a few primary aptitude tests we recommend. Here are the big three to consider:

  1. The Highlands Ability Battery (HAB)
  2. The Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation Aptitude Test (JOCRF)
  3. The A.I.M.S Test (AIMS)

While all three of these tests roughly measure the same abilities, there are two crucial differences. First, the HAB can be taken and administered remotely while the other two assessments require Arkansan families to travel to testing locations in Texas. Second, since the HAB can be taken remotely, the HAB is quite a bit cheaper, about $200-300 less than the JOCRF and the AIMS. 

Why take the Highlands Ability Battery?

I use the HAB with our students. It’s more accessible to Arkansan families and uses more advanced career matching data as well. This data enables you to help your students identify careers and help them isolate which college majors match them best. Yet, the other two tests (the JOCRF and AIMS) are very similar to the HAB and remain viable assessment options as well. To learn more about taking the HAB, click here.

After your student takes the HAB, they will receive a list of career recommendations. They can then use those recommendations to plan for their careers. This is tremendously helpful, especially for students who haven’t the slightest clue as to what they’ll major in or study while in college. When Arkansas families hire me to help students pick their careers, college majors, and college, I follow these three simple steps, which you’re welcome to use with your student. 

  1. Motivate: I have students undergo a motivation analysis to identify the tasks that motivate them, which really helps them narrow down their career options. The method we use to do this can be found in Simon Sinek’s book Find Your Why (You can order the book on Amazon with this affiliate link).
  2. Research: Simply research what it’s like each day in your student’s interested careers using youtube videos and blog articles.
  3. Network: This is where the magic happens. I connect students with professionals in the careers they’re interested in. I help them conduct informational interviews and arrange for job shadowing experiences as well. This gives students first-hand accounts of what it’s like to work in their interested fields. 
  4. Plan: Research the schools that have the best programs for your student’s desired career. This is the best way to start your student’s college list. We’ll do a blog article in the future on ways you can use free or inexpensive technology to help you do this as well. 

In summary, start this process by helping your student identify their career path first. It may be tempting to look at colleges with big names nestled in luxurious locations first. However, it will cost you big, and, most tragically, it will cost your child. It will make the college prep process easier and keep your student more focused. All of these benefits will reduce a tremendous amount of anxiety on you and your student. More importantly, though, you’re taking steps to ensure the success of your student’s college education, which will land them in a good school and safely secure them a fulfilling career and future. 

Use this link to schedule your child’s aptitude test today!

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