Life beyond high school

ROSE RENNEKAMP ACT Vice President of Communications

Every child is unique, with unique talents, passions, and skills. A nd as each child grows up, he or she begins thinking about independence and the future. As a parent, you can help guide your children toward a meaningful career. William Shakespeare wrote that "all things are ready, if our minds be so."

The path to a career will be different for every student. But the early route is the same. Children need to work hard in school up until the day they graduate. Rigorous classes will prepare students for college, career, and life.

After high school, there are limitless possibilities. Four-year universities are perfect for some students ( college/index). Community colleges are ideal for others. Certification programs nicely fit the bill for some careers. Apprenticeships are another way to explore the world of work — and get paid for learning. Internships are great for students — whether they're in high school or college — who want to get a taste for an occupation. Some high schools even offer career academies that provide courses for specific occupations.

The medical field offers up an excellent example of a wide and diverse occupational spectrum. Your child might start in one position and love it. Or he or she may want to continue moving along the continuum.

For example, certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, work with nurses to provide patient care. Community colleges offer 6- to 12-week CNA certificate programs. In less than four months, your child could complete training for a lifelong career or use the training as a springboard for further medical study.

Several years ago, my daughter was in the hospital. I learned that her nursing aide was also a premed student. He said being a nursing aide was a great way to make sure he really wanted to be doctor. In addition, because he worked weekends and was paid well, he was able to pay his own way through college.

Anyone interested in a medical career can study and train to become a paramedic, registered nurse, physician's assistant, or medical doctor, among other options. Whether your student becomes a radiological technician (2 years of education) or a radiologist (8+ years of education and training) is a matter of time and individual skills and preferences.

It's never too early to begin thinking about life after high school. You may have a child who picks a career at age five and never wavers from that goal. Or, perhaps more likely, your child may change his or her mind many times. Fortunately, you can help point your child to resources that explore and examine careers.

Beginning in 8th grade, your student can take ACT's EXPLOR E® exam. This test contains a total of 128 questions that assess your child's readiness in English, math, science and reading. Because students complete an interest inventory, score reports also provide valuable information to guide their educational and career plans.

In 10th grade, students may take the PL A N® test, a 145- question exam that builds upon the same topics as EXPLORE; the material is slightly more difficult. PLAN results show academic areas where your student is strongest and where he or she needs to improve. For sample test questions, encourage your teenager to visit www.actstudent. org/plan/pdf/sample.pdf.

Finally, in 11th or 12th grade, your student can take the ACT® test. ACT scores, along with student grades, show your teenager's readiness for college and career. To learn more about the ACT test, visit html.

Education is the building block of a successful career. Help your child stay on course in school. Encourage your child to take challenging classes. And guide your child along the journey. The reward will be a young adult who is ready for all that life offers.

ON THE WEB: For more college and careerplanning information,

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2009-09-24 digital edition

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